For some, good oral hygiene may mean just brushing, flossing and using a germ-fighting mouthwash, but for others, that’s only the beginning of a cavity-fighting regime. In fact, many people are taking heed to an oral health care procedure more commonly associated with children; the use of dental sealants.
Decay is subject to begin early in life, affecting children and teens’ teeth that are exposed to harmful foods and beverages. Many dentists recommend and apply dental sealants to premolars and molars in their younger patients, but according to AGD Impact, the monthly newsmagazine of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), sealants can also protect adult teeth and seal them from decay-causing bacteria.
Dental sealants are made of plastic and are applied directly to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth that fit into the depressions and grooves (pits and fissures) of teeth.
“It takes only a few minutes to seal each tooth and once applied, can protect teeth from decay for up to several years,” says AGD spokesperson and past president, Bruce DeGinder, DDS, MAGD.
So how does a thin plastic film painted on the chewing surfaces of teeth protect tooth enamel from bacteria and acids that cause decay and cavities?
“As long as the sealant remains intact, small food particles and bacteria that cause cavities cannot penetrate through or around a sealant,” says Dr. DeGinder. “Sealant protection is reduced or lost when part or the entire bond between the tooth and sealant is broken.”
Visiting your general dentist twice a year for regular dental appointments will allow the dentists to check the condition of dental sealants and reapply them when necessary.
What is the procedure for applying a dental sealant?
- Clean the teeth (Your dentist may need to check whether decay is present in the grooves of the teeth)
- Roughen the chewing surfaces with an acid solution (This process will help the sealant stick to the teeth)
- Paint the sealant on the tooth (It bonds directly to the tooth and hardens)