Dental Care

Teeth Sealant And Preventive Care

Ever heard of teeth sealant? Most tooth decay in children and teenagers occurs on the chewing surfaces of the molars.

Dentists can help protect the integrity of these important teeth by bonding a resinous plastic material called directly onto the grooves and fissures of the chewing surfaces. 

Dental sealant is a thin plastic coating related to the plastic resin dentists use to make "white fillings" (i.e., fillings that are not made of dental amalgam and are white in color).

Once in place, dental sealant deters the formation of tooth decay by providing a physical barrier that prevents plaque, bacteria and food particles from lodging in the grooves and fissures of the tooth's chewing surfaces. 

Because the dental sealant partially fills in these grooves, the tooth surfaces are smoother and are not only less likely to trap the plaque, bacteria and food particles that cause tooth decay, they are also easier to clean with a toothbrush. 

Dental sealant is most effective when applied shortly after the molars erupt, before the onset of any tooth decay.  A child's first and second molars typically erupt from the gums at around 6 and 12 years of age, respectively.

Teeth Sealant Application

The application of dental sealant is a quick, easy and painless process which does not require any drilling or anesthesia.  The tooth to which the sealant will be bonded must first be cleaned and dried thoroughly, however, or the sealant will not adhere properly. 

The dentist or dental hygienist might scrub the tooth's surface with a small brush placed in a dental drill.  Air abrasion by means of a mini dental sandblaster is another way to cleanse the tooth's grooves thoroughly.

Once the tooth is cleaned and dried, the dentist will place an "etching" gel on the tooth's chewing surface, in the same place where the dental sealant will be placed.  The gel, which is only left in place for a few seconds before being washed off, prepares the tooth's surface so the dental sealant will bond to it properly. 

The portion of the tooth that has been treated with the gel will have a "frosty" appearance when the gel is rinsed away.  After the etching gel is washed off, the tooth is dried and a thin layer of the liquid teeth sealant is "painted" onto the tooth's grooves and fissures.

The next step of the application process usually involves shining a blue spectrum "curing" light onto the treated tooth.  The blue light activates a catalyst within the sealant that causes it to harden into a protective shield within about a minute. 

However, some brands of teeth sealant are "self-curing" and therefore do not require this step in order to harden.

Once the dental sealant has fully hardened, the dentist will check how the patient bites on the treated tooth.  If the layer of sealant is too thick, the dentist can simply buff it down with his or her drill.

What Happens Next?

That's it.  The sealant is now fully hardened and there are no restrictions on what the patient is able to do.  It's perfectly permissible to eat or drink immediately after leaving the dentist's office.

Teeth sealant is very durable, and despite the extreme pressures placed on the teeth during ordinary chewing, the protective layer can remain effective for five to ten years. 

Eventually, however, teeth sealant can wear or even become damaged.  The condition of sealants should be evaluated during the patient's regular dental appointments.  Fortunately, they can be reapplied if they have worn away or their integrity is damaged.

Dental sealants are white, clear or slightly tinted.  They are not obtrusive at all, being visible only at close range.  Because they are typically applied to the surfaces of the molars, they are not usually seen when the patient smiles or talks. 

They can be an important part of preventive dentistry, protecting a child's molars from tooth decay.  Sealing the teeth to prevent decay is always better than waiting for a cavity to form and then filling it.  Whenever a cavity is filled, the drilling damages and weakens the tooth's structural integrity. 

Sealants can also help prevent the discomfort that is often associated with cavities and the process of filling them.


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