A Closer Look at Sealants
Most people understand that the reason regular brushing and flossing are essential for good oral hygiene is that those habits remove bits of food that adhere to the enamel of our teeth which, left in place, would ultimately cause decay. But look inside just about anyone’s mouth and you’ll see that the toothbrush and floss alone are at a disadvantage in some areas – specifically where teeth have deep recesses.
While the best preventative defense against plague build up and tooth decay is regular brushing, it’s difficult for toothbrush bristles to reach into some of the deeper crevasses in molars found in the mouths of children and adults. So even when you brush, food particles can be left behind to do their dirty work. There is another helpful preventative measure used by dentists all over the world in cases like this: dental sealants.
Dental sealants, plastic material applied to the deep grooves in teeth that hardens and acts as a barrier, can help prevent tooth decay anywhere bristles can’t reach. They essentially “seal” the deep grooves, making the chewing surface shallower and preventing an unintentionally perfect hiding place for food.
Sealants are very easy to apply. The are of the tooth to receive the sealant is thoroughly cleaned and dried. Then the compound is painted onto the tooth enamel, which hardens quickly and bonds directly to the tooth. Once hardened, your dentist files down any rough edges so that you are left with a smooth, sealed chewing surface where there was once a deep crevasse (technically, a pit or fissure). As long as the sealant is in place (and regular, thorough brushing and flossing continue) the tooth is protected from decay.
While they should hold up well under the normal wear and tear of chewing, sealants don’t last forever. You can expect to replace them every several years. Sealants are often used in children’s molars, which may fall out on their own before sealants need to be redone. Either way, your dentist will check the condition of the sealants each time you visit, making sure they are still intact and protecting your teeth.
With or without sealants, the same rules of healthy oral hygiene apply. Always brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste approved by the ADA; floss daily; limit your sugar intake and eat a healthy, balanced diet; and be sure to visit your dentist at least twice a year (four times a year is even better).
Talk to us about the benefits of sealants and whether or not they may help prevent tooth decay for you or your family members. We are always happy to answer any questions you may have.