Dental sealants are commonly used to protect the back teeth (molars and premolars) from cavities and more severe tooth decay. However, not everyone is aware of the importance of dental sealants. With one simple and non-invasive procedure, sealants can save you from tooth decay.
The back teeth (the molars and premolars, which have relatively flat chewing surfaces) often have multiple deep grooves within them. If bacteria enter these grooves, then it becomes very difficult to remove them. Toothbrushes and floss cannot enter these small spaces. The bacteria can easily set up a tooth infection that causes severe decay. The decay may be very advanced before it’s noticed, because it’s difficult to detect in its early stages when it’s hidden in the tooth grooves.
In order to protect these teeth from decay, dental sealants are placed. This thin coating covers the chewing surfaces of the teeth, filling in the grooves so that bacteria can’t enter.
The first step is to ensure that the teeth are completely clean, so that no bacteria will be trapped under the sealant. Once the teeth are cleaned, they’re dried thoroughly, and cotton is wrapped around them to ensure that they stay dry while the sealants are being applied. An “etching” solution is applied to the tooth’s surface. This kills any remaining bacteria, and slightly roughens the tooth’s surface to help the sealant stay in place.
Next, the sealants are placed onto the teeth. Dental sealant is a thick white liquid, which fills up the tooth’s grooves. The dentist places enough sealant to fill the deep grooves that can’t be cleaned, but not so much that it completely covers the tooth. A textured surface is important for the teeth to chew food effectively. Once the sealant has been placed, it’s hardened using a special light. The entire procedure takes only minutes for each tooth.
Although sealants are durable, the forces of chewing are significant, and the sealants will eventually wear off of the teeth. Usually, sealants will last about ten years before they need to be replaced. However, yours may last for a longer or shorter time, depending on your diet, the shape of your teeth, and other factors. When a sealant needs to be replaced, the process is very similar to the process of placing the sealants in the first place.
It’s recommended that sealants be applied to the molars of children as soon as possible after the molars come through the gums. However, even if you never had sealants as a child, you can still benefit from them as an adult. Those who did have sealants as children will still need to have them periodically reapplied as adults in order to benefit from their protective aspects.
Anyone who has deep grooves in their molars and/or premolars should consider getting dental sealants. Pay attention to your back teeth, especially when you eat sticky foods (like raisins), and notice whether food particles are getting stuck in the grooves of your molars. Also notice how difficult it is to brush this debris away later. If food stays stuck in your teeth, then there’s a strong possibility that you will experience decay in these important back teeth. Getting dental sealants could save you from a more expensive and time consuming procedure later.
If you’ve already had dental sealants, then Dr. Caggiano will check your sealants at every appointment to determine whether or not it’s time to replace them. It’s important to keep your sealants in good condition, so that they can continue to protect you from tooth decay.
For over 25 years, Dr. Mark Caggiano, DDS has provided cosmetic and restorative dentistry in a comfortable, professional environment. Dr. Caggiano received a degree in Biology and his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from The University of Southern California. He has had extensive post-graduate training and is a member of numerous professional organizations including The American Dental Association and The International Dental Implant Association. Dr. Caggiano makes dental treatment relaxed and comfortable for patients while enhancing their oral health and beautifying their smiles.