Healthy Smile, Happy Mouth
On the chewing surfaces of our back teeth (our molars and premolars), there are deep grooves or fissures where tooth decay can often start. Because of the anatomy of the deep fissures in the tooth’s enamel, bacterial plaque can infiltrate these areas. However, toothbrush bristles and fluoride cannot often get into these hard-to-reach grooves. This environment, therefore, inhibits the natural protection of our teeth from our saliva, and simultaneously aids in plaque accumulation, thus resulting in the loss of minerals in the teeth and consequently, decay.
How Dental Sealants Can Help Prevent Tooth Decay
Dental sealants are considered a preventative treatment wherein a protective plastic film is professionally applied to the fissures to ‘seal’ the area. This film is simply a resin material similar to that used for tooth-colored fillings. It only takes a few minutes in the dental chair for a dentist or hygienist to apply a sealant to a tooth. The sealant then serves as a blockage for bacteria, thus preventing it from infiltrating those deep grooves in the tooth. It also provides a smooth surface that is easily cleaned by your toothbrush bristles and can naturally be protected by your saliva. Another plus about sealants is their design. When applied, they flow easily into the deep grooves of our teeth, without any need of prior removal of tooth structure. They are a truly painless and beneficial method of tooth decay prevention.
Candidates for Sealants
Sealants are most beneficial to kids and teenagers because they can help prevent bigger problems in the future that could potentially be caused by the existence of those tooth fissures. Many kids get sealants on their molars and premolars shortly after they come in, so as to protect them from cavities during those years they are most susceptible. Even smaller children may benefit from having sealants applied to their baby teeth. It is imperative to keep those baby teeth healthy so they don’t come out too early, as they are pivotal in providing the proper spacing in preparation for kids’ adult teeth. Especially if your child’s baby teeth have deep grooves or fissures, it is smart to talk now to your dentist about whether the application of sealants would be a good preventative measure. However, some adults are also good candidates for dental sealants. If you do not have any existing tooth decay or fillings, sealants may be a good solution for you, too.
Under proper care and monitoring, a dental sealant can last for up to 10 years. That’s a decade of decay prevention! Of course, it is imperative to have it checked by your dentist for wear and tear and possible chipping at your regular semi-annual cleanings. With the right maintenance, a dental sealant can be a simple and affordable long-term solution for a problem before it even has a chance to start! Ask your hygienist or dentist at your next check-up if you are a good candidate for dental sealants.