Dental Tips Blog


Preventing Cavities with Dental Sealants

Cavities have common areas of occurrence: between the teeth and on the chewing surfaces of the back molars. The decay between teeth typically forms where the teeth touch each other and is prevented only by cleaning the area each day with floss or a water flosser. The chewing surfaces of molars may develop decay even with dedicated brushing. This is because the pits and grooves on the chewing surface can be so narrow and deep that not even toothbrush bristles are able to reach down into them. As a result, perfectly healthy teeth that belong to a person dedicated to preventive dental care can still develop cavities.

Dental sealants are a preventive procedure that helps repel bacteria from entering into these areas and causing tooth decay. The clear, plastic-like material is brushed onto a tooth that has been gently conditioned, and then is cured using an ultra violet light. After it has hardened, the sealant leaves a smooth protective layer over the small grooves, making it easy to brush any food or bacteria away from the tooth. Sealants do not protect the areas between the teeth, thus flossing is still necessary for optimal decay prevention.

Unlike fillings, sealants do not require tooth preparation, anesthetics during the application, and are not permanent. Very sticky foods such as taffy may pull the sealant off of the tooth and should be avoided. Otherwise, sealants can last several years. They are primarily placed on permanent molars just after they have erupted, helping children limit tooth decay in an early age where their oral hygiene habits may not be adequate. Permanent molars erupt around ages 6 and 12, but vary from child to child.

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