Decayed, broken, and missing teeth mess up what could otherwise be a beautiful, radiant smile. Many people do not take dental care as seriously as they should which is why their teeth and smile may suffer down the line.
Teeth are vulnerable to decay in children, teenagers, and adults even with regular brushing. Tooth decay occurs mainly due to sugars from the foods you eat or drink, e.g. cookies, soda, juice, and candy. The bacteria present in plaque (the creamy, sticky substance found on the tooth’s enamel) converts the sugars into acid that attack the teeth. Cavities can develop as a result, especially in people who do not practice good oral hygiene.
Additionally, there are crevices called pits (tiny hollows) and fissures (grooves) on the surface of the teeth located in the back of your mouth. These dips and grooves can easily trap food, bacteria, and plaque. Once the food is trapped, it can be difficult to remove with regular brushing, flossing, or rinsing. With a tooth seal or dental seal, you essentially have an additional layer of protective shield for your pearly whites.
What Are Sealants?
Dental decay usually occurs in the grooves of teeth that are not sealed. A dental sealant, also called pit and fissure sealant, is a liquid coating that forms a hard plastic-like seal over the biting or chewing (occlusal) surfaces of permanent teeth in the back of the mouth. It forms a smooth layer of protection over the pits and fissures that effectively prevent bacteria and food from getting trapped in these vulnerable creases in the teeth.
If during a checkup or routine dental work your orthodontist recognizes that one or more of your teeth are predisposed to cavities, he or she may recommend you get them sealed.
How Are Sealants Applied?
The application of dental seals is a quick and simple process that lasts a few minutes while in the dental chair. With these few steps, your teeth will be ready to fight against bacteria, plaque, and food that can damage your pearly whites over time:
Step 1: Your orthodontist will thoroughly clean the teeth that need to receive a tooth seal.
Step 2: The teeth are then dried and absorbent material, such as cotton, is placed around each of them to sap any remaining moisture and keep the surfaces dry.
Step 3: Your orthodontist may prep the chewing surfaces of the teeth further by applying an etching solution. This roughens the surface and allows the sealant to bond quickly. Certain types of sealants do not require etching prior to application.
Step 4: Teeth are rinsed and thoroughly dried.
Step 5: The dental seal is then painted over the enamel of the teeth being treated. It becomes hardened within minutes. To hasten the process, your orthodontist may use a special dental device to apply curing light over the treated teeth.
Will I Feel Pain When Getting Sealants?
You probably never met or heard of anyone who said they’re always excited to see the dentist. In fact, the thought or sight of sharp or pointy silver devices is enough to make you flinch. This is because people tend to associate dentists with pain. However, getting dental seals is a quick and painless process, so you’ll be out of the dental chair in a matter of minutes!
Why Are Dental Seals Only Applied to Back Teeth?
Incisors and canines are teeth located in the front and sides of the mouth. Their flat or pointy edges do not create a resting place for food particles that eventually become plaque if not removed. The other two types of teeth known as molars and premolars are found on both sides in the back of the mouth.
Unlike incisors and canines, molars and premolars have a wider surface with tiny indentations or pits and fissures. Some groves may be larger or deeper than others. Toothbrush bristles are sometimes not effective enough to removed tiny food particles.
Once bacterial activity converts the particles into plaque and then tartar (hardened plaque), it sets the stage for cavities to form. For these reasons, the application of dental seals to back teeth helps to preserve them.
How Effective Are Sealants in Preventing Tooth Decay?
Sealants are currently the most effective way of protecting teeth from decay in an almost permanent way. Dental sealants can stay in place and provide a shield for teeth for up to 10 years! Because of wear and tear over time, you will need to have them checked during regular dental check-ups.
Your dentist will examine the teeth to look for chipping or wearing and can replacing sealants, if necessary, to continue blocking out bacteria and plaque. When a tooth seal becomes worn out plaque can sneak in and cause decay. Your dental specialist will place a filling into the affected teeth if needed to stop further damage.
Are Sealants Right for Me?
It’s never too late for anyone to get sealants so babies, children, teenagers, and adults can get their teeth sealed. However, children older than 6 and teenagers make great candidates for this type of dental treatment.
Moms between the ages of 20-45 can benefit greatly from this dental protection, especially since pregnancy and hormones can make it easier for cavities to form. However, sealants are applied only to grooves that don’t already have fillings or sealants.
When Is the Best Time to Get Dental Sealants?
The teeth of children and teens are more prone to cavities between ages 6-14. Therefore, the best time to apply a dental seal is soon after the first of the permanent teeth erupt through the gum. This typically occurs in children around age 6 or 7. The rest of the molars and premolars usually come in between ages 11-14.
Babies too can get dental seals in cases where their teeth have deep grooves. This forms part of dental care to prevent premature loss of baby teeth and promote the formation of healthy permanent teeth that may be less prone to caries.
Do I Still Need to Clean My Teeth?
Of course, you do! Dental sealants do not substitute for regular brushing, flossing, and rinsing. However, they do provide an extra layer of protection, reduce the risk of decay, prevent loss of teeth, and minimize the number of dental fillings or root canals you may in the future. Ensure you continue to brush twice a day for at least 2 minutes. Teeth that are sealed have smoother surfaces that make them easier to clean.
If you or your child require this extra layer of dental protection, just give us a call today to schedule a consultation. Our orthodontist is experienced in treating babies, children, teens, and adults with dental sealants.
2002 Richard Jones Road
Suite A-200 Nashville
Phone: 615 269 5903
How Do Sealants Work?
Dr. Joel Gluck has practiced orthodontics since 1983 when he opened his own office in Nashville. He earned his undergraduate degree at Washington University in St. Louis, and his dental degree at the University of Tennessee. Dr. Gluck then completed an orthodontic specialty residency at the University of Michigan, one of the top five orthodontic training residencies in the country. He also wrote an original thesis and received a Master of Science degree.