Your oral health depends greatly upon a variety of different things, including not only how you protect and maintain your oral hygiene, but also your diet and overall health condition. When it comes to protecting your teeth from decay, there are many habits that you will need to adhere to and many habits you will need to discard. For example, you will need to make sure that you brush your teeth at least twice every day and floss your teeth at least once every day, and you need to avoid excessive sugar and carbohydrate consumption. Even with careful attention to your oral habits, however, you may still find that some teeth are just more prone to developing cavity problems than others–specifically the back teeth. Fortunately, dental sealants can work to protect them from decay even where other oral hygiene habits cannot.
Your permanent back teeth have deep grooves on their chewing surfaces. These deep grooves trap leftover food particles, bacteria and plaque. They are very difficult to clean, especially since toothbrush bristles are too large to penetrate them. Bacteria-ridden plaque that builds up in these grooves has time to create the acids that destroy tooth enamel, causing cavities. Fluoride can help to protect the surfaces of your teeth to some extent, but dental sealants provide extra protection by sealing the surfaces and creating a smooth surface that bacteria is less able to adhere to.
Dental sealants are usually clear, white or have a slight tint to them, depending on the type of sealant that is being used, the teeth it is being used upon and what your dentist thinks is best. In order to place a dental sealant on a tooth, your dentist will:
- Thoroughly clean your tooth with a gently abrasive toothpaste. Receiving dental sealants first requires that your tooth is completely cleaned, for the obvious reason that sealing in any food particles, bacteria or plaque will do greater harm to your tooth.
- Wash and dry your tooth. In preparation for the next step, the tooth must be thoroughly washed and dried.
- Apply an acidic solution to the tooth. The dental sealant will not adhere well to a completely smooth tooth, so an acidic solution is applied for several seconds in order to roughen the surface of the tooth.
- Wash and dry the tooth. Prior to sealant application, the tooth must again be washed and dried.
- Apply and cure the dental sealant. After the dental sealant is placed on the tooth, a special dental curing light is used to harden it.
A properly placed and cured dental sealant is essentially a hard plastic coating over the tooth. It does not interrupt one’s ability to chew with the tooth as usual, but it does prevent food particles, bacteria and plaque from accumulating in the deep grooves on the chewing surfaces of the tooth.
Dental sealants can be placed on permanent molars as soon as the chewing surface has erupted into the mouth, and this is how they can be most effective at protecting against cavities. While they can be placed on adult teeth, they are more often placed on a child’s permanent molars, which usually finish erupting into the mouth at around eleven to thirteen years of age. In rare cases, dental sealants can also be used on other teeth–such as any permanent teeth that have deep grooves or pits. Your dentist is the best person to assess whether permanent teeth can benefit from dental sealants.
While dental sealants do not last forever, they can last for a considerable length of time. Where it is necessary, new dental sealants can be placed on teeth when older sealants have worn down or worn away so that one can continue to benefit from their protective powers. Your dentist is best able to tell you how often you may need to replace your dental sealants.
To learn more about dental sealants or to schedule your appointment to have dental sealants placed on your teeth, contact Today’s Dental now.