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Molar Sealants: Does My Family Need Them?


Tooth decay is common among children. Regularly brushing teeth twice every day and flossing reduces the cavities children may have a difficult time reaching. Are there any other preventative measures to help reduce the chances of dental caries? Molar sealants may help.

Molars are large, flat teeth located in the back of the mouth. Children with milk teeth have eight molars that are in groups of two on each side of both jaws. Adults have a total of twelve molars, and they appear in groups of three on each side of both jaws. The last set of molars is called wisdom teeth, as they appear in the late teens. Molars are used for chewing and grinding food.

Although as compared to other teeth molars are described as “flat”, molars do have cusps that create fissures on their surface. Due to these fissures, food particles can easily get stuck on molars, leading to bacterial growth and ultimately dental caries. Research has shown that of all dental caries, about 66% of dental cavities occur on molars.

Why do we need molar sealants?

An effective way to prevent molar cavities is molar sealant application. Molar sealants form a barrier between teeth and food. When applied to teeth, these sealants adhere to the pits and fissures on the surface and make the surface smoother. Food particles do not stick to this smooth surface and can be cleaned easily. This reduces the chances of bacteria forming plaque on the teeth. Molar sealants are sometimes referred to as pit-and-fissure sealants.

A common misconception in public is that molar sealants are not necessary if fluoride varnish is applied. Molar sealants do not replace other strategies such as reducing dietary sugar and fluoridation of water, aimed at reducing the incidence of dental caries. It is also not a substitute for flossing or brushing. Molar sealants are an additional preventative measure to routine at-home dental care.

What are molar sealants made of?

Molar sealants are typically either resin-based, or glass ionomer based. Glass ionomer sealants often contain fluoride, which further prevents the formation of cavities due to sustained release of fluoride. Glass ionomer sealants do not shrink after applying but they have low tensile strength.

Resin-based sealants may contain derivatives of bisphenol A (BPA), a plastic that mimics the hormone estrogen. BPA is known to affect hormones to cause infertility, cancers, and metabolic disorders such as obesity. However, scientific evidence does not suggest any harmful effects of BPA-containing molar sealants. Resin-based sealants are often preferred as they are retained better.

Will it hurt while applying molar sealants?

Molar sealants are typically recommended for children as they are at a high risk of dental caries. Generally, the first set of molars erupts at age six and the second set erupts around age twelve. Dentists often recommend applying molar sealants as soon as teeth erupt to prevent dental caries.

Molar sealants are easy to apply and being a pain-free process, it is well suited for children. Before applying the sealant, dentists typically clean the teeth first, and then apply a gel to prepare the teeth for sealant. The dentist then uses UV light to help harden the sealant.

Molar sealants are usually clear or white in color and are not visible when the mouth is opened wide. Molar sealants last for up to ten years. Dentists usually replace missing molar sealants during preventative care visits if the sealants fall off.

Given the effectiveness of molar sealants, many schools participate in community health programs that offer sealant treatments. If you are concerned about the cost of molar sealants, check with your dental insurance as many companies offer molar sealants for free or at a low cost. After the cavities are formed tooth restoration is expensive and hence, it is advisable for most children to get molar sealants as a preventative measure.

Are these molar sealants effective?

Research has proven molar sealants to be highly effective in preventing dental caries. A study conducted on children aged six to 11 years compared teeth treated with molar sealants to untreated counterparts for a period of 24 months. The results showed that dental caries in untreated children were three times more than in children treated with molar sealants.

Another group of people who may benefit from molar sealant application is older adults with reduced saliva secretion. Not all adults are good candidates for molar sealant application. Research on molar sealants in children with primary teeth (age three to seven years) has shown mixed results. The American Dental Association, however, recommends molar sealants for children with primary teeth. Talk to your dentist if a molar sealant is an option for you.

Conclusion

Preventative application of molar sealants is recommended for children when their molars erupt. These molar sealants cover pits and fissures on the surface of teeth, which reduces cavities. Molar sealants are highly effective in preventing dental caries in children and some adults.

Key takeaways

Molars are twelve teeth located in the back of your mouth and are more susceptible to dental caries.

Molar sealants are a thin protective plastic covering that is applied to the chewing surface of molar teeth. Applying molar sealants is a pain-free process.

Molar sealants can protect teeth from dental caries for up to ten years.

Although molar sealants are primarily meant for children, some older adults may benefit from this treatment. Talk to your dentist if you have concerns related to dental caries.

Resources:

Canga, M., Malagnino, G., Malagnino, V.A., and Malagnino, I. (2021). Effectiveness of Sealants Treatment in Permanent Molars: A Longitudinal Study. Int J Clin Pediatr Dent.

Chabadel, O., Véronneau, J., Montal, S., Tramini, P. and Moulis, E. (2021). Effectiveness of Pit and Fissure Sealants on Primary Molars: A Two-Year Split-Mouth Randomized Clinical Trial. European Journal of Oral Sciences.

Condò, R., Cioffi, A., Riccio, A., Totino, M., Condò, S.G. and Cerroni, L. (2013). Sealants in Dentistry: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Oral Implantol (Rome).

Mark, A.M. (2016). Dental Sealants. The Journal of the American Dental Association.

Muntean, A., Sarosi, C., Sava, S., et. al. (2021). Dental Sealant Composition-Retention Assessment in Young Permanent Molars. Materials.

Zhang, C., Li, Y., Zhang, Z., et. al. (2019). Improvement of Pit-and-Fissure Sealant Bonding to Enamel with Subpressure Treatment. BioMed Research International.

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