Most of us are familiar with the disappointment of finding out during a routine dental checkup that we have a cavity and will have to return for another appointment to have the cavity filled. The fact is, even with the best of oral hygiene cavities do at times develop, especially in the nooks and crannies of our back teeth which can be hard to thoroughly clean even with our best efforts. What many people don’t realize is that there is a long-lasting, affordable, painless and fast way to drastically cut down on your chances of developing cavities.
Dental sealants are thin plastic coatings that are applied to the grooves on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth to protect them from tooth decay. Sealants protect these vulnerable areas from tooth decay by keeping germs and food particles out of the grooves. They are not usually visible, even when talking, eating or laughing, as they are typically clear or white.
The application process of sealants is short and easy. After the tooth is cleaned, a special gel is placed on the chewing surface for a few seconds. The tooth is then washed off and dried. Then, the sealant is painted onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens. The dentist or dental hygienist also may shine a light on the tooth to help harden the sealant. It takes about a minute for the sealant to form a protective shield. While the entire process takes only moments, sealants can provide long-term protection, lasting from five to ten years.
Because of the likelihood of developing decay in the depressions and grooves of the premolars and molars, children and teenagers are obvious candidates for sealants. However, adults without decay or fillings in their molars can also benefit from sealants, especially if their teeth have deep grooves and fissures that do not already have fillings.
Typically, children should get sealants on their permanent molars and premolars as soon as these teeth come in. In this way, the dental sealants can protect the teeth through the cavity-prone years of ages 6 to 14.
In some cases, dental sealants may also be appropriate for baby teeth, such as when a child’s baby teeth have deep depressions and grooves. Because baby teeth play such an important role in holding the correct spacing for permanent teeth, it is important to keep these teeth healthy so they are not lost too early.
If you’d like more information about whether dental sealants are a wise choice for you and your family members, please ask your dentist or hygienist at North Burnaby Dental Group.