How does a sealant
help prevent decay?
A sealant is a plastic material that is
usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth—premolars and
molars. This plastic resin bonds into the depressions and grooves (pits
and fissures) of the chewing surfaces of back teeth. The sealant acts as a
barrier, protecting enamel from plaque and acids. Thorough brushing and
flossing help remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of
teeth. But toothbrush bristles cannot reach all the way into the
depressions and grooves to extract food and plaque. Sealants protect these
vulnerable areas by "sealing out" plaque and food.
application a complicated procedure?
Sealants are easy for your
dentist to apply, and it takes only a few minutes to seal each tooth. The
teeth that will be sealed are cleaned. Then the chewing surfaces are
roughened with an acid solution to help the sealant adhere to the tooth.
The sealant is then 'painted' onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds
directly to the tooth and hardens. Sometimes a special curing light is
used to help the sealant harden.
As long as the sealant remains
intact, the tooth surface will be protected from decay. Sealants hold up
well under the force of normal chewing and usually last several years
before a reapplication is needed. During your regular dental visits, your
dentist will check the condition of the sealants and reapply them when
Sealants are just for kids, right?
likelihood of developing pit and fissure decay begins early in life, so
children and teenagers are obvious candidates. But adults can benefit from
sealants as well.
Key ingredients in preventing tooth decay and
maintaining a healthy mouth are twice-daily brushing with an ADA-accepted
fluoride toothpaste; cleaning between the teeth daily with floss or
interdental cleaners; eating a balanced diet and limiting snacks; and
visiting your dentist regularly. Ask Dr. Widen about whether sealants can
put extra power behind your prevention program.
Floss can get caught
in your teeth for a variety of reasons.
1. The contact is just too
tight. If this is the case your dentist can lighten up the contact for you
with a minor procedure. Actually taking a sand paper or metal strip
between the teeth and removing some filling material. You want a tight
contact so you don't get food caught, but you also want to be able to
floss. There are special flosses on the market that can be helpful for
tight contacts, ask your dentist.
2. The floss is getting caught
on a rough, overextended or broken portion of an existing filling. If this
is the case your dentist may suggest that the old filling be replaced with
a new one. It may be the same type of filling or it may require the
filling be a casting, such as a gold inlay or a crown. This is necessary
because the portion that is catching your floss is also catching plaque
and bacteria. This plaque can lead to gingivitis or perhaps gum disease if
not treated. Once treated the floss should pass trough without shredding.
3. The floss is shredding because there is a sharp surface around
an area of decay between your teeth. Your dentist can x-ray this area and
determine the amount of destruction present. Then you and your dentist can
determine the appropriate course of action. Whether it be a silver
filling, a gold filling, or a crown the decay must be removed and a new
Now more than ever,
kids are faced with a large variety of food choices; from fresh produce to
sugar-filled, processed convenience meals and snack foods. What and when
children eat may affect not only their general health but also their oral
health. Americans are consuming foods and drinks high in starches and
sugar more often and in larger portions than ever before. It’s clear
that “junk” foods and drinks gradually have replaced nutritious
beverages and foods for many people. For example, the average teenage boy
in the U.S. consumes 81 gallons of soft drinks each year! Alarmingly, a
steady diet of sugary foods and drinks can ruin teeth, especially among
those who snack throughout the day. Common activities may contribute to
the tendency toward tooth decay. These include “grazing” habitually on
foods with minimal nutritional value, and frequently sipping on sugary
drinks. When sugar is consumed over and over again in large, often hidden
amounts, the harmful effect on teeth can be dramatic. Sugar on teeth
provides food for bacteria, which produce acid. The acid in turn can eat
away the enamel on teeth. Almost all foods have some type of sugar that
cannot and should not be eliminated from our diets. Many of these foods
contain important nutrients and add enjoyment to eating. But there is a
risk for tooth decay from a diet high in sugars and starches. Starches can
be found in everything from bread to pretzels to salad dressing, so read
labels and plan carefully for a balanced, nutritious diet for you and your
Follow these rules to reduce your children’s risk of tooth
- Sugary foods and drinks should be consumed with meals.
Saliva production increases during meals and helps neutralize acid
production and rinse food particles from the mouth.
between-meal snacks. If kids crave a snack, offer them nutritious foods.
- If your kids chew gum, make it sugarless – Chewing sugarless
gum after eating can increase saliva flow and help wash out food and
- Monitor beverage consumption – Instead
of soft drinks all day, children should also choose water and low-fat
- Help your children develop good brushing and flossing
- Schedule regular dental visits. (Information from ADA