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.

41 comments:

Gigirdh said...

I am a dental hygienist, and I can say that sealants are very good in prevention as long as they are applied to teeth w/o decay. The dentist should make sure that the area to be sealed is caries-free. I do a lot of sealants on children and also some on adults. It is a wonderful way to prevent cavities. The only thing I can think is that you may have had some small decay that was missed before the sealants was placed. As long as the pits and grooves are sealed properly, then no 'leakage' should occur and it should help with preventing cavities. I will say that sealants are not full-proof. Habits such as clenching, grinding, or chewing on ice, etc. can disrupt the sealant. They should be checked at every recall. Also, decay would show on a dental x-ray/Bite wing.

Parrett Five said...

OH MY GOSH! I just went through this experience with my eleven year old son. I am beyond upset and very concerned for my other two children who have sealants... I was told that they may or may not have to come out of their mouth. It all depends on how their saliva works with the sealant. I asked if "microscopic bacteria" could be under their sealants and I was told, "Welllll". I just don't know what to do. I Googled "concerns about dental sealants" and I found your blog.
Read mine for the full story. I just don't know what to do....should I go to the Dentist and have the sealants removed from my other children's teeth? I'm livid!

Deb Shumake said...

I just went through this exact same thing yesterday! Every 6 months my teeth and sealants that I got about 20 years ago look great. No cavities appeared on x-rays nor through their tool they use to see if things "stick." I just started feeling a slight amount of pain on my upper left back tooth. It was slightly dark under the sealant, so my dentist decided to go in and look underneath. There was a lot more decay than any of us expected. He decided to do 2 teeth on my upper left and now I have to go back in and have my other 6 molars that all had sealants on them drilled and filled. I'm so upset that these sealants don't prevent decay, but rather, prevent anyone from SEEING decay.

Pleasant said...

My son recently had two
teeth filled with sealant
a couple days ago and
complains they hurt alot,
wheras he hadn't had
pain in his mouth
before. What could that
mean? I looked up
info on the web for
side affects for having
sealants but couldn't find
any... I am thinking
he may need to have them
removed if this continues
for more than a week.

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nancy said...

My son, 22 years old, had sealants put on some permanant molars as a child. Today he had to have 5 cavities filled in those teeth that had sealants! He takes good care of his teeth and sees the dentist every 6 months. He was very upset about this and so was I! It seems that over time these sealants chip off and leave pits on the teeth and those areas decay and the decay gets under the sealant too. Do not seal your kid's teeth! My son that did not get sealants does not have any of these problems and he does not take nearly as good care of his teeth either. It is purely a money making venture for the dentists and the manufacturers!

Marfa said...

We just found out that our dental insurance company will cover 100% of the cost of sealants...however, I am skeptical of the whole thing. The sealants contain Bisphenol A (BPA) a harmful substance used in making plastics...you may have heard about baby or water bottles containing BPA, most are going BPA-free now, or using glass.

Wendy said...

I had sealants put over my front teeth and keep breaking since you got yours removed I would like to know what the process was... how are they removed?

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Frosch said...
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Frosch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Frosch said...

I am 32 yo. I just had fillings in 3 of my teeth related to decay under old sealants. I will have 3 more next week on the other side for the same reason. I had no tooth pain in any of these, so it was detected in the course of an oral evaluation. They were placed when I was about 10-12 on vacation to my grandmother in the US. I have been to the dentist semi-regularly, though in different countries. Most recently it has been to 3 US dentists in various parts of the country. That said, my last dentist appeared very proactive, but never mentioned the sealants as a source of suspicion.

My concern is that they are allowed to be left on too long, and that dentists cease to inspect them carefully. In many people they seem to come off in the course of life. Still, with this being such a potential problem, I wish others were aware.

One could be cynical and question whether the sealants were in fact defective, but after many years it seem most likely that they are. Even if some of this dental work is semi-preventative, I believe that is probably warranted.

I do wonder if many fillings in molars develop in people who have sealants, but that once they come to the dentist with pain the sealant may have fallen off. Also it is possible at that stage that it may be unclear if the cavity is caused by sealant anymore.

I was surprised at the dearth of information about sealant problems once I searched. The public should at least be aware so that they can ask about their sealants. They should know enough so that they could choose to have them plucked. My sense is that initially the decay below sealants will not be visible on x-rays.

If you have sealants, consider that they might be enabling cavity formation, and preventing you from ever even having the chance to clean these areas. Filling cavities related to sealants involves a lot of drilling, and my sense is that this is because the decay often runs in long lines where the sealant was.

zoobernarf said...

I go to the US Naval Academy where we are required to have dental screenings. After my last screening my hygienist marked six locations to put sealants. Today, three were put on and I was never even told I had a choice in getting these or what they were aside from "standard procedure." To top it off the hygienist seemed to be in a hurry (military medical communism health system) and didn't even do them all in one day. I'm definitely not getting the next three. I just hope to get them removed as soon as possible.

Ato~dev said...

Well, I should have been skeptical when the dental assistant described the procedure: to open up the pits with acid like substance and then fill with sealants. This means a problem, in my opinion is created, and filled and may have to be refilled later. Well one of my children's sealants has some problems which I am sure will lead to fillings etc. Now this new dentist wants to give my 17 yr old sealants who has no apparent problems as of yet....No thank you - those of my 11 children who have skirted the sealants will not get them.

lin said...

The atodev post should have been from me...that is one of my children who was signed in apologies....

Gambe said...

This same thing happened to me today. I have never had a cavity before, and one of my sealants was wearing away so I had the dentist remove it, only to find a small cavity underneath. I asked her if it is possible that there could be small cavities that went unnoticed on xrays on the other teeth with sealants.

Looks like I will be getting all of the sealants removed to check, and I will not get them again,

gregarioussloth said...

im still looking for the one who says sealants caused extreme jaw discomfort , as anything like that should, teeth are very touchy asbout things being putbetween them. i was 12 and am now thirty four. i can'tattribute tooth deca, but since they were gone dyeue to grinding in less than ayear, i must assume that they were no help. any one with reasoning faculties and slight knowledge can see that they bind to enamel. my oppinion, that's all

KINGDOM said...

My children received sealants when there were about 9 & 11. My oldest daughter needed a root canel at the age of 15. My youngest daughter now needs a root canal also. They are both grown now 21 & 23 years old. For every sealant they had, they need or needed a root canal. My oldest daughter is in the Navy & is having to get another one and possibly one after this one. They have to check it out. My husband also had to get root canals also for every sealant he had. Thank God I didn't get them and I don't have any cavities at all, but they wanted me to get them. These people need to be sue for putting out bogus information on sealants and trying to have our young children to get them only to have them needing root canals because of decay underneath the sealants and are not caught early enough even with regular dental visits. They ask me did I want sealants for my sons, I said absolutely not, my husband and my daughters had to get root canals for the sealants that they had.

William Watt said...

I have had this exact same problem in my life, and I never knew there was a solution. I had sealants put on when I was young, and I believe they have caused me serious problems. Just like you, I have been to several different dentists throughout my life, and after looking at X-rays and in my mouth, they assure me nothings wrong. In my situation, I have had chronic halitosis for almost 20 years, and my breath has had distinct smell of decay. Recently I decided to take further action, and I found a dentist that had a tool called a DIAGnodent. Against his better judgement, he also thought there was nothing wrong, but after using that tool he found decay in 3 of my teeth! I was so excited when he said he was going to drill (I know kind of weird) because I thought he was going to get rid of my problem. However after he had performed his procedure, nothing changed! I still smell this distinct odor coming from the regions of my mouth where he said he had fixed. Furthermore he said he found no decay, which leads me to believe its still there. When I went in for a follow up visit he said that was all he could do, that it must be something else. I strongly believe there is still a problem, and after finding your blog I wanted to ask you, which dentist did you go to that helped you? I am almost certain he is not where I am located being that I am in Hawaii, but I would love to give him a call to see if there is anything else I can do. Also if there is anything else that you could think of that could help my case, please let me know. I am desperate for answers at this point. Thank you for posting this by the way, I have always felt like I was such a strange case, so it is nice to know that I am not the only one out there.

Ozma of Oz said...

I have six children, and all of them have been "sealed". Recently I was told that two of them had a sealant which "failed" (had a cavity underneath). First my teenage son had a cavity under one of his. Today my 12-year-old daughter had one filled, and the dentist told me that if we had caught it later, she would have needed a root canal. He is going to look underneath another sealant next week, and if it has a cavity underneath, I will never do sealants again, and I will have him remove the rest. The only nice thing is that he doesn't charge for restorations from failed sealants, but it is small comfort. By the way, we brush and floss at least EVERY night, and we keep our 6-month appointments religiously.

Ozma of Oz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Raquel said...

Hi there,

When I was growing up I never had cavities. I wore braces for eight years to fix my front teeth. When I turned 22 yrs. old, my dentist recommended that I should get sealants on the 12 molars to keep free from cavities. Now, I am 29 yrs. old and moved out of state. I went to visit a new dentist that took x-rays of my tooth and said that I have 12 cavities all growing very big beneath the sealants. I had fillings done but I am facing a root canal and crowning. I was so sad because at my age we don't get new set of tooth. I was even more depressed because I never needed to do sealants in the first place. I do not recommend sealants to anyone.

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Jessica said...

Thank you so much for saying this! I'm in a dental program and yesterday during lab my instructor told me that if I refused to have sealants placed on my teeth by other students that I would fail my class. I thought this was really unfair. I'm 31 years old and I think that if there was any undiagnosed decay that this could cause major problems for me down the road that I can't afford. Also last week when we were examining each other during cleanings, an instructor double checked me and said I don't have a cavity on a tooth that my dentist has already told me that I have a cavity on. I didn't think this was right. Do you think we should even be placing these on each other after only one practice with a typodont? And can they really force you to do things that you don't want to have done to your body?

Wave said...

The science shows that sealants are very effective at preventing tooth decay. They must be well placed and checked often. They are not a substitute for fillings if there is decay present.

Most issues come from the fact that the sealant is lost - not because it was placed .

jess said...

Hey Jessica, there is only one name for this: abuse. NO they can't force you to do anything, let alone puting BPA on your mouth. And yes, bad dentists shockingly don't know the difference between a cavity or a healthy tooth (with perhaps a bit of stain which mimics a cavity but it is NOT).
Wave, if you read all the posts you will see that your comment does not match the testimonials. Thanks

jess said...

Hey Jessica, there is only one name for this: abuse. NO they can't force you to do anything, let alone puting BPA on your mouth. And yes, bad dentists shockingly don't know the difference between a cavity or a healthy tooth (with perhaps a bit of stain which mimics a cavity but it is NOT).
Wave, if you read all the posts you will see that your comment does not match the testimonials. Thanks

Jon said...

My son just has sealants and i really worry after reading your experiences. I want the sealant removed. Is it possible and caution when removing it.

bigger_pepper said...

This has been enlightening. I was researching sealant removal because my daughter's behavior changed after getting sealants. She's easily distracted and very testy , and was never this way before. After researching about bpa in sealants, I decided to have them removed. The dentist has worked with us on this, but he did not get it all off the first time after telling me that he could remove them entirely. I'm wondering if anyone else has seen a change in their child's behavior after getting sealants?

Deborah Gately said...

My story is slightly different...My sealants were put on over 20 years ago, and they were put on all my teeth, including my amalgam filled molars. I know the sealants have long since been worn away, but the damage left behind is painful and expensive. The fillings are breaking and chipping and I now have multiple holes in most of my molars, and some pieces of the teeth have broken off as well. I have excellent oral hygiene, especially since I have worked for multiple dentists. Sealants can be a good thing if applied proplerly.

Kyle Libby said...

A well place sealant will protect the tooth. A tooth must be pumiced to remove all the plaque and calculus from the chewing surface, otherwise it will be destined for failure because the composite cannot bond to plaque. Moisture isolation must be maintained throughout bonding and sealant placement.

Kyle Libby said...

It is a common misconception within the dental field that 35% phosphoric acid removes plaque and allows for bonding. This is false. Pumicing is absolutely required prior to etching and bonding.

The Rabbit said...

Do you have any information on possible damage to the teeth or enamel from having sealants removed? And if there is a method that is better than others at safely removing the sealants? My 13 year old had sealants placed on his 12 year molars. Several hours later he developed a rash on his back and torso, which the pediatrician is calling Pityriasis Rosea.He is on day 7 of the rash. I am unconvinced that the rash is not a result of the sealants and am planning to ask the denstist to remove the sealants. Just hoping that you can offer some advice. Thank you!

Carito B said...

Hi, Tere. Just wondering what happened with your son? My daughter just had sealants put on two days ago and she has been breaking out in hives since that night. Did you figure anything out?

Tabby said...

I am so upset. I was just told at a routine dental checkup that a fourth tooth that I had gotten sealants on when I was a kid 25-30 years ago has a cavity that formed after a broken sealant. I was doing a web search on cavities after sealants wear out and came across your blog. I feel better that I am not the only one who got sealants as a child and has this issue. This is my fourth cavity in a year! You'd think I never brush or floss, but I have always been diligent about brushing and flossing my teeth after each time I eat, using mouthwash, and getting dental cleanings twice a year. I had never had cavities before, and dentists always say my teeth look clean, like I take care of them well.

Rachel said...

Hi there. Do you know if decay under a sealant goes undetected on an xray?

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Mrs. Jorgenson said...

Did you end up removing the sealant? I’m wanting to have my 7yo daughters removed, but I don’t know if that would cause more problems.

Mrs. Jorgenson said...

Did you have the sealants removed?

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