Dental sealants act as a barrier to prevent cavities. They are a plastic material usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (premolars and molars) where decay occurs most often.
Thorough brushing and flossing help remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth. But toothbrush bristles cannot reach all the way into the depressions and grooves to extract food and plaque. Sealants protect these vulnerable areas by “sealing out” plaque and food.
Sealants are easy for your dentist to apply. The sealant is painted onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens. This plastic resin bonds into the depressions and grooves (pits and fissures) of the chewing surfaces of back teeth. The sealant acts as a barrier, protecting enamel from plaque and acids. As long as the sealant remains intact, the tooth surface will be protected from decay. Sealants hold up well under the force of normal chewing and may last several years before a reapplication is needed. During your regular dental visits, your dentist will check the condition of the sealants and reapply them when necessary.
The likelihood of developing pit and fissure decay begins early in life, so children and teenagers are obvious candidates. But adults can benefit from sealants as well.
TOOTH DECAY AMONG CHILDREN
By Dr. H. Kopel
According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention tooth decay is the leading disease among children in the United States. Tooth decay is preventable by proper oral hygiene, avoidance of foods containing sugar or starches, as well as sealants and fluoride treatments provided by your dentist.
A child’s baby teeth should be cleaned as soon as they start erupting through the gums by the parents. This should include brushing and flossing. As soon as the child starts spitting out their toothpaste instead of swallowing it, professional and home fluoride applications may start. The most important time to clean the teeth is at night before bed. The teeth should be brushed, flossed and then any recommended fluoride solutions should be applied. Only water should be ingested afterwards. Small children should be weaned off of night time milk and juice as soon as possible.
During regular 6 month dental checkups and cleanings the teeth will be treated with a fluoride gel or varnish. For maximum protection of the teeth see your dentist for a prescription strength fluoride toothpaste or fluoride rinse for home care use. When the permanent molars erupt or when indicated by your dentist, sealants will be recommended to prevent decay from starting in the susceptible pits and grooves of the chewing teeth where fluoride is least effective.
Following these guidelines as well as any specific recommendations made by your dentist may eliminate or at least minimize any future tooth decay. Starting good hygiene habits at a young age can provide a lifetime of healthy teeth.