What You Need to Know About Dental Sealants
Sealants can help preserve your child’s smile for a lifetime. Though dental sealants are not a cure-all in preventing tooth decay, they are cost-effective and helpful to patients — particularly children — in controlling decay in certain areas of the mouth.
The Facts About Dental Sealants:
A dental sealant is an acrylic-like material that helps shield out decay-causing bacteria from the chewing surfaces of back teeth.
We base our diagnosis and recommendation for dental sealants on the patient’s susceptibility to tooth decay and how the teeth were shaped when they originally formed below the gum. Though there is no specific age at which sealants are indicated, often we will recommend that the best time to apply them is when the six-year molars (the first permanent back teeth) appear.
How Do Sealants Help Prevent Decay?
Sealant materials form a protective barrier by bonding to tooth surfaces and covering natural depressions and grooves (called pits and fissures) in the teeth.
More than 75% of dental decay begins in the pit and fissure areas of the back teeth. Many newer sealants contain and release fluoride to further protect teeth from decay. Combined with proper home care and regular dental visits, sealants are extremely effective in preventing tooth decay.
Are Sealants Suitable For All Teeth?
Sealants are applied only to pit and fissure areas of specific teeth. Unfortunately, they cannot be applied to the surfaces in-between teeth, where daily flossing is recommended to prevent decay.Though sealants are most often applied to children’s teeth, many adults are now seeking the preventive benefits of pit and fissure sealants.
How Are Sealants Applied?
In this painless procedure, a solution is applied to the chewing surface of the tooth to condition the enamel and help it bond more effectively to the sealant material. The tooth is thoroughly washed and dried. Then the sealant material is applied and allowed to harden, sometimes using a high intensity “curing” light. The procedure takes only a few minutes.
How Long Do Sealants Last?
Depending on your chewing pattern, the sealant effect can last many years. Even though sealant material is durable, at subsequent dental appointments we make sure the sealant material is intact. Occasionally, we might need to replace or add a new layer to keep the protective barrier strong and effective.
Even a single toothbrush bristle can miss hard to reach depressions and grooves to extract food particles, bacteria and plaque.
Now That Your Teeth Have Been Sealed
Chewing on ice cubes, hard candy or very sticky foods should be avoided as much as possible. Here are some tasty, healthful snack alternatives that, combined with sealants, fluoride and good home care, can help to reduce your susceptibility to tooth decay.
- Reduced fat peanut butter
- Air-popped popcorn
- Fresh vegetables
- Fresh fruit
- Sugar-free, non-fat fruit yogurt
- Dry, unsweetened cereal
- Low-fat cheese
The sealant material flows to the depth of the groove, sealing out decay-causing bacteria.
Sealants Versus Fluoride
Sealants and fluoride are materials designed to preserve and prolong the life of your teeth by preventing dental decay. Sealants are applied topically to certain areas of individual teeth and are a visible sign that the tooth is being protected. Some sealant materials now contain and release fluoride to the teeth.
A fluoride varnish application is one of many ways to apply a high concentration of fluoride to the biting and smooth surfaces of teeth. Fluoride may be used effectively from the pre-natal stages through the adolescent period, when children are most prone to cavities. Once absorbed and retained in tooth enamel, fluoride stays on the teeth permanently, though invisible. Fluoride is supplied in a variety of forms including varnishes, mouth rinses, foams, gels, toothpastes and drinking water.
The combination of sealants and fluoride can be important steps in preventing tooth decay. Here are some other steps you should take to protect your teeth.
- Brush twice daily.
- After brushing “spit” but do not rinse.
- Floss once a day.
- Use recommended home-care products.
- Visit us at least twice a year for routine checkups.
If you have any questions about sealants, please ask us. Sealants have proven to prevent tooth decay. Our goal is to help preserve your smile throughout your life, and sealants help make that possible.