Dental sealants began with Dr. Michael Buonocore, who was a dentist and researcher working at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the early 1960s.
Dr. Buonocore’s discovery was based on the observation that dental enamel contains tiny pores that can be etched with acid, allowing dental materials to bond more effectively.
He developed a technique of applying an acidic solution to the tooth surface, followed by the application of a plastic coating that could bond to the etched enamel. This technique was named acid etch bonding, and was later used for the development of dental sealants.
In 1967, the first dental sealant was introduced by the American Dental Association (ADA) — made from a type of plastic called Bis-GMA.
The widespread adoption of dental sealants was slow at first, both because of a lack of public awareness about their benefits and the lack of proper equipment/training for dentists to apply them.
It was not until the 1970s that dental sealants gained popularity as a preventative measure for tooth decay. As usage picked up, sealants were initially focused on serving children and adolescents who were at a high risk of developing cavities due to their diet, oral hygiene habits, and the morphology of their teeth.
Several key doctors and scientists contributed to the development and popularization of dental sealants over the years. Dr. John W. Stamm, who was a dentist and researcher, was instrumental in demonstrating the effectiveness of dental sealants in preventing tooth decay.
Dr. Paul T. Robertson, who was a dental public health expert, played a key role in promoting the use of dental sealants as a public health measure.
These were important steps in developing widespread acceptance.
How quickly did the use of dental sealants create noticeable benefits for patients?
Dentists began to see noteworthy improvements in their patients’ dental health shortly after starting to apply them. It wasn’t the sort of things that took many years to determine whether sealants were useful.
Several studies have shown that the use of sealants can reduce the risk of tooth decay by 60-80% in molars and premolars.
- A 2016 systematic review and meta-analysis of 25 studies, published in the Journal of Dental Research, found that the use of sealants reduced the risk of tooth decay by 76% after one year, and by 59% after two years.
- A 2013 study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association followed over 2,500 children for six years and found that those who received sealants had a 73% reduction in the incidence of tooth decay compared to those who did not receive sealants.
The success of sealants is not without a minor element of debate, though.
A 2016 study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives investigated BPA exposure in children who had received dental sealants. According to the findings, BPA levels in children’s urine increased after sealant application. However, the authors noted that the levels of BPA were well below the safety threshold set by regulatory agencies.
Further, that concern is greatly mitigated by modern changes in the materials used to make the dental sealants.
Advancements In How Sealants Are Made and Applied
The original sealants were made from Bis-GMA (bisphenol A-glycidyl methacrylate) resin, which is a type of plastic material. While Bis-GMA sealants are still in use, there are now many other options available that offer improved properties such as increased bond strength, wear resistance, and esthetics.
One significant development in sealant materials has been the introduction of resin-modified glass ionomer (RMGI) sealants. RMGI sealants are made from a combination of glass ionomer and resin materials, which makes them more durable and long-lasting than traditional glass ionomer sealants.
RMGI sealants can also be matched to the natural color of the tooth, unlike other materials.
Another advancement in sealant materials has been the introduction of light-cured sealants. These sealants are cured using a special light, which makes them faster and easier to apply than traditional sealants that require a chemical curing process. Light-cured sealants are also more resistant to wear and tear than traditional sealants, making them more durable and long-lasting.
Read more about dental sealants used in our office here, or call us today to schedule an appointment!