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.

Is sealant 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 necessary.

Sealants are just for kids, right?

The 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 Shredding

       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 restoration placed.


       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 kids.

Follow these rules to reduce your children’s risk of tooth decay:

- 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.

- Limit 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 decay-producing acid.

- Monitor beverage consumption – Instead of soft drinks all day, children should also choose water and low-fat milk.

- Help your children develop good brushing and flossing habits.

- Schedule regular dental visits. (Information from ADA website)


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