|Dr. Benjamin Coon, D.D.S.|
Dental sealants have been in common use for about three decades, and technology has advanced and improved them over the years. Sealants act as a barrier, protecting the teeth against decay-causing bacteria. They are typically applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth — the premolars and molars — where decay occurs most often. Children are especially good candidates for this preventive treatment.
The most likely place for a child to get a cavity is in the small pits and grooves in their back teeth, areas that are extremely difficult to keep clean. Thorough brushing and flossing help remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth, but toothbrush bristles often cannot reach all the way into the depressions and grooves. Sealants protect these vulnerable areas by "sealing out" bacteria-causing plaque and food.
A sealant is a plastic resin that is applied to the chewing surfaces of the teeth. It protects enamel from cavity-causing plaque and acids. While sealants aren't 100 percent effective in preventing cavities, they can significantly reduce the risk of decay, especially if a patient visits his or her dentist regularly to have worn out or missing sealants replaced.
Sealants are easy for your dentist to apply, and it takes only a few minutes to seal each tooth. The teeth that will be sealed are cleaned first, then the chewing surfaces are roughened with an acid solution to help the sealant adhere to the tooth. The sealant is then painted onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens. Sometimes an ultraviolet light is used to help the material cure and harden.
As long as the sealant remains intact, the tooth surface will be protected from decay. Dental sealants hold up well under the force of normal chewing and usually last several years before a reapplication is needed. During regular dental visits, your dentist will check the condition of the sealants and reapply them whenever necessary.
Of course, the basics for tooth decay prevention include twice-daily brushing with a fluoride toothpaste; daily flossing; eating a balanced diet and limiting snacks; and visiting your dentist regularly. Ask your dentist whether sealants can augment your family's prevention program.
Dr. Benjamin Coon, D.D.S.
Glenwood Meadows Dental
40 Market Street, Suite A
Glenwood Springs, CO 81601