Dental Sealants Explained

//Dental Sealants Explained

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    Shielding your teeth from harmful bacteria.

    Tooth decay is the root of all evil, if you will pardon a pun that constantly makes the rounds around every dental office in America. Okay, we know it is not that clever or funny, but that is why most dentists are busy keeping America’s teeth clean and healthy, instead of doing stand-up at Caroline’s comedy club in New York. The fact is though, that there is nothing funny or amusing when enough plaque and decay builds up on your teeth. That is when the trouble starts and you go to an oral health “code red” situation. Cavities begin to form and serious gum disease (gingivitis and periodontal issues), may not be too far behind.

    When we do not adhere to a sturdy and steady oral hygiene regimen of daily brushing and flossing and indulge in a diet that is heavy on the carbs, starches and sugar content, then we are inviting cavities to take root in our teeth. We lose minerals that protect the surface and enamel of our teeth, when the germs and bacteria in our mouth ferment food debris. Over a long period of time, this can cause moderate to severe tooth decay, which leads to cavities forming in our teeth.  And then we are faced with a session with the dreaded dental drill. Cavities must be filled or they will become so painful that you cannot think of anything else but the discomfort that you are feeling. Who wants that to happen?

    Your back teeth are at risk even if you brush and floss all the time.

    That is one serious statement to make, but unfortunately it is true. The chewing surfaces of your rear molars are filled with grooves, recesses and indentations that can easily collect food particles and debris. That is not the case with most of your other permanent teeth. Okay, so you say to yourself “I will just brush harder and more often back there”. Not so fast because it probably will not help. Vigorous brushing is not enough to combat the sugars, starches and acids that attack your rear teeth every day. Great oral hygiene, a tooth friendly diet and regular check-ups at the dentist will all help. But you need more. The bristles on even the most technologically advanced toothbrush are so fine that they cannot reach into those deep fissures and crevices on your rear teeth in order to remove the food that has accumulated there. But keep hope alive because real help is on the way!


    Dental sealants are the overlooked weapon in your fight against tooth decay.

    Sealants are a dental treatment that is designed to protect your teeth from any and all potentially germ causing food particles. Sealants have been around since the early 1970’s. Their development was inspired by research studies done by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Dental sealants are a thin coating of plastic that are painted onto the chewing surfaces of your back teeth. The sealant is in liquid form and with the aid of a special light, is bonded directly onto the enamel of each tooth. The various depressions, grooves and fissures that are on the teeth are covered by a protective coating or barrier, which prevents food particles from getting a grip and accumulating. You could say that they seal out germs and plaque.

    Am I a candidate for sealants?

    At first, sealants were mainly used by dentists to protect the teeth of small children. The theory is that most kids should get sealants on their teeth, as soon as the first permanent molars come in, before they can be exposed to tooth decay. In certain cases, dentists will advise parents to have sealants placed on their infant’s teeth. This usually occurs when the pits and grooves on the child’s teeth are way too deep and precautionary measures have to be taken. You do not want your little one’s baby teeth getting premature cavities or decay, which could then cause them to fall out early. This could then interfere with the proper spacing and health of the permanent teeth that will be coming in. It is also extremely important for teenagers to get sealants. Anyone who is the parent of a teen, knows that these are the prime years for eating junk food and being too busy to keep up a solid brushing and flossing routine.

    Nowadays sealant treatments are becoming increasingly popular with adults of all ages.

    Sealants are the ultimate tool when you are talking about preventative oral health care. The procedure is simple, completely painless (no numbing needles or anesthetic required) and can be done by your dentist or by a dental hygienist. It can only be done on teeth that do not already have a dental filling.

    This sounds interesting!  What steps are involved?

    Sealants are easily and quickly applied. Here’s how it is done….

    First, your back teeth will be thoroughly cleaned by your dentist, using a special paste and rotating brush device. You don’t want the odd, leftover particle of food or plaque left in the pits or grooves. That would defeat the whole purpose of having the treatment. Afterwards, your teeth will be dried. In most cases, cotton will be used to absorb the moisture. The next step involves an acidic solution being placed on the teeth that are to be sealed. This creates a rougher texture to your tooth’s surface and makes it much easier for the sealant to be attached to the enamel. At this juncture, your dentist will rinse out your teeth and once again make sure that they are bone-dry. The liquid dental sealant will be brushed onto your teeth. The standard process calls for the sealant to be cured by a special light which will harden the plastic coating.  Sometimes the dentist will use another component that serves to harden the initial coating of sealant.

    What is the lifespan of a typical dental sealant?

    It varies, but most sealants have been known to last for between five and ten years. Your dentist will check on the sealants and make sure that they are still doing their job. The good news is that sealants are highly replaceable. If your sealant wears down or cracks, it’s no big deal for your dentist to put in a new one. But you have to do your work as well. That means you cannot let your oral health guard down for even one day.

    Always keep in mind that using fluoride toothpaste and drinking fluoridated water is your best defense against tooth decay.

    Are sealants limited to the back teeth?

    Traditionally most sealant treatments involve the rear molars of kids and adults alike. That having been said, sealants can and have been placed on teeth that are located more towards the front of a patient’s mouth. If your dentist determines that teeth, other than your rear ones, have deep fissures and pits that could present a problem, you will be advised to have them treated.

    Will people know that I am wearing a sealant on my teeth?

    Not at all, especially if the teeth that have been sealed are in the back of your mouth. Dental sealants are a clear plastic coating. Some varieties of sealant may have a very light tint or shade to them, but it blends in with your other teeth. Cosmetic concerns and appearances are not an issue when you have sealants.

    Despite the many benefits of dental sealants, not many people know about them. It is time to get acquainted with this treatment because in addition to saving you from the discomfort and pain of having to deal with a cavity, sealants also save you money in the long run. We are all aware of the havoc that tooth decay and cavities can cause, including costly extractions and other surgeries and procedures.


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