Monday, February 25, 2008

Sealant Problems - from Childhood to Adulthood

Here is another story, this one from a friend of mine:

My story: I received my first set of sealants when I was young, probably 6 or 8years old. They seemed to do their job for a while, but when I was 16 or so, my dentist decided they needed to be replaced; I have no idea if that's true. He must have done a pretty poor job, because when I got a check up this past summer (at age 23), the dentist found five cavities, all under my molar sealants.

What's worse, he had to use a special laser to detect them, because the teeth looked perfectly healthy on the outside; the decay was entirely under the sealants. One was so bad that the dentist was worried I would need a root canal (which, thankfully, I didn't) because it got so close to the root. Let me be clear about what happened here: I did not have any cavities except underneath the failed sealants where I was unable to clean. If my dentist hadn't caught the decay with the laser when he did, I could very easily have lost several teeth.

- Andrew in CA

Saturday, February 23, 2008

My Dental Sealant Horror Story

I had dental sealants placed on my teeth as a young adult in my mid-20s (at the recommendation of a dentist I was seeing at the time). I continued to see that dentist, and then I moved and saw a different dentist, but I got my teeth checked and cleaned faithfully every 6 months. I was told my mouth looked good and all was well. I was happy over the years, thinking that my oral health was stellar.

Then recently, in my 30s, I saw a new dentist since my husband had spoken so highly of his own dentist (and I never had strong feelings either way about my dentist, so I thought "what the heck - why not try someone sho is really good").

So when I saw this new dentist, he looked in my mouth, saw the sealants, and gently but firmly suggested that they all be removed. He explained that he has seen more harm than good with sealants over the years (and in fact he refuses to use them in his practice). He also explained that until the sealants are taken out of my mouth, there is no way to really know "what is lurking underneath." At this point I began to get very worried - especially when the dentist mentioned that in every case where he has removed sealants of a patient, there was decay underneath.

"Why is this the case?" I asked. "Aren't sealants supposed to 'seal out' decay?" He went on to explain to me that sealants fail most of the time for a couple of basic reasons:

First of all, sealants have to be perfectly put into the mouth with no moisture, bacteria, etc. underneath -otherwise that "bad stuff" will be trapped in and will start the decay process. In order to achieve the perfect scenario to place sealants, a dentist has to take a lot of time and preparation measures to achieve a clean and dry environment in a patient's mouth - which today, in a dentist's rush to see as many patients as possible during a work day, can be especially difficult to achieve.

Secondly, and perhaps more likely the cause of decay over sealed teeth, the sealants fail over time. Think about it, the sealants aren't meant to last forever. Over time, slowly, undetectably, the sealants start to wear down, and little pockets or holes appear. And then bacteria, food particles, etc. can seep in and begin todecay the teeth. If you have sealants in your mouth, how can you or your dentist possibly tell if they are wearing down and if there are invisible holes or tiny food particles trapped under the sealant?

So back to my story - my new dentist removed my sealants, and the worst was true in my mouth: I had extensive decay under every tooth (8!) that had a sealant. I was shocked, horrified, saddened - you can guess every emotion that I felt. And the worst of it is this process took place unnoticed - I thought I had been taking care of my mouth and all was well, when in fact disaster was striking.

Since this happened to me, I am talking to my friends, family, and beyond and am finding more of people who have experienced the same exact thing as me. And one of the most horrifying things is that many dentists are pushing sealants on our children as a "quick fix" for decay - when there is now data out there that shows sealants over the long term can be VERY harmful!
The idea of sealants sounds great on paper when you first hear about it - but the bottom line is that decay gets trapped under sealants, and in many cases this decay goes undetected for some length of time before it is discovered. And if decay goes on for any length of time....well, it is not good news for your teeth.
Please ,please think twice before getting sealants.

If you have questions or a story of your own, please post it here. I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Why a Blog on Dental Sealants?

On paper, the idea of dental sealants seems terrific.

In reality, they can be a nightmare. Read my story below.

By first, why this blog? I have found that public information about dental sealants is very one-sided. Sealants are glowingly presented as the "wonder way" to prevent cavities - and all children today in the U.S. are advised to get them. I want to make sure people are not misinformed about the dental sealants - people need to know the downside of them.

I also want to gather the stories of other people who have problems with sealants, and find dentists who can describe the pitfalls of dental sealants.

There are two sides to every story - I want to make sure the public knows the "other" side of dental sealants. They are not all that they are cracked up to be. They do NOT completely prevent decay - in fact, they can make the problem much worse.

Like I said, read on for my story.