Over the last twenty years, awareness of the importance of applying dental sealants has increased. Some teeth, especially molars, benefit from dental sealants if they have deep grooves or pits that are hard to reach and completely clean with your toothbrush bristles. Dental sealants are easy for a dentist to apply and act as a barrier, protecting your enamel from the damaging effects of plaque and acids. Dental sealants are most often applied to the chewing surfaces of your back teeth–molars and premolars–where decay commonly accrues. Dental sealants are particularly effective in children and teenagers since the likelihood of developing pit and fissure decay begins early in life, but adults can enjoy benefits from dental sealants as well.
A sealant is a thin plastic coating (usually clear or white in color) that is applied to the chewing surface of your tooth, which shields the enamel from further decay by “sealing out” food, plaque, and bacteria. Sealants are meant to prevent the need for dental fillings, and require no drilling to the enamel or dentin in order to be applied. The great thing about dental sealants is that they are invisible–no one will even notice they are there, but they can make a big difference in whether or not your tooth gets a cavity or not.
Dental sealants act as a barrier to prevent cavities. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), “sealant placement in children and adolescents has shown a reduction of cavities’ incidence [by] 86 percent after one year and 58 percent after four years.” Thorough brushing and flossing help remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth, but, unfortunately, there areas that, despite your good efforts, the toothbrush bristles just cannot reach. Deep depressions and grooves in teeth trap food particles and allow plaque to collect. When you eat, the bacteria in plaque use the sugars in your food to produce acids that eat away at the tooth enamel. Repeated attacks cause the enamel to break down, eventually resulting in a cavity (or hole) in the tooth surface.
Children are prone to cavities because of the natural shape of their growing teeth. When first molars come in around age 6, deep crevices called pits and fissures form on the chewing surfaces of these back teeth. Dental sealants are recognized as an effective approach to preventing pit and fissure cavities in children. The national oral health objectives for dental sealants, as stated in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Healthy People 2020, include increasing the proportion of children and teens who have received dental sealants on their molar teeth. Although sealants are commonly recommended for children and teenagers, they are also a good preventative treatment for adult patients with no tooth decay or fillings in their back teeth. Prevention is the best approach to keeping your oral health in optimum shape.
The application process of dental sealants is quick and painless. You, or your loved one, doesn’t need to worry about numbing medications because none are needed. The whole process to seal a tooth only takes a few minutes. A member of our Family and Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies team will begin the dental sealant process with a thorough cleaning of your teeth. This will ensure that no foreign particles get trapped under the sealant. After the tooth is thoroughly clean and dry, a small amount of acid solution is applied to the chewing surface to prime the enamel so the sealant can better bond to the tooth. The tooth is again rinsed and dried, before the sealant is painted onto the enamel. Typically, the sealant will dry and harden on its own, but sometimes a special curing light will be used to speed up the setting process. Once the sealant is set, you can go back to eating and drinking like you did before the procedure. Sealants can also last from 5 to 10 years with proper dental hygiene and regular cleanings.
If you want to know more about the advantages of dental sealants and how they preserve your smile, or if you would like to make an appointment, call Family & Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies today at (970) 223-6101. For your convenience, you can also reach us online by submitting a contact or appointment request using the form below.