Tuesday October 25, 2011
Sealants – saving teeth & money
Certainly frequent brushing and flossing as well as regular visits to the dentist go a long way toward preventing cavities. However, sometimes these measures are not enough. The surfaces of our molars and pre-molars – the teeth we use for chewing – are covered with tiny pits and fissures so small that they are almost invisible to the naked eye. They are so small and deep in fact, that the tip of a toothbrush bristle can’t even make its way into them to remove collected food and plaque. And we all know what happens to plaque when it stays around in teeth... it eats away at the enamel, eventually creating caries or cavities. So what’s the solution to this dilemma? Sealants.
What are sealants?
Sealants are coatings applied by your dentist to the surfaces of your teeth to make them smoother, filling those fissures so food and plaque can no longer collect in them. The material is either clear, white or slightly tinted and can therefore not be seen when you speak or smile. Application of sealants is a relatively quick procedure. The tooth is first cleaned and dried. A liquid is then applied to the tooth to make the tooth’s surface a little rougher which makes the sealant bond to the tooth more securely. Once again, the tooth is rinsed and dried. The liquid sealant material is then applied and within seconds is dry and hard.
Are sealants safe?
Sealants have been around since the 1950s and have been proven by research to be effective and safe. Despite their longstanding history, however, many don’t know about them and how significant a role they can play in contributing to one’s oral health.
Who should get sealants?
Sealants are typically applied to permanent molars which erupt in most children around the age of 12. It is best to apply them immediately after the teeth have come in, to eliminate those opportunities for decay to occur. While it is predominately older children who get sealants, sometimes theyare recommended to adults who are at a higher risk of cavities, or who have particularly deep fissures in their teeth. Sometimes your dentist may recommend sealants for a young child’s baby teeth if they are more prone to cavities.
How long do sealants last?
Sealants typically last for five to ten years. Regular dental appointments include checking their condition to determine if reapplication becomes necessary. Why is a sealant better than a filling?
One may initially think, “So, what’s the difference between getting a sealant now, or applying a filling to a cavity down the road?” The answer, in short, is “huge”. A sealant is applied on top of a tooth, thereby strengthening and protecting it. A filling on the other hand, involves drilling into the tooth. The bigger the filling, the more drilling required, thereby making the tooth that much weaker and more compromised. This in turn can lead to further complications which are even more costly and can further jeopardize the tooth.
Do sealants make fluoride and good oral hygiene practices unnecessary?
While sealants protect the tops of the teeth, fluoride protects all tooth surfaces. Sealants are only part of a good preventative dentistry program which also includes fluoride, brushing at least twice a day, flossing, eating healthy foods and visiting your dentist regularly.
Steven Deskin is a Brantford Dentist in general practice.