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Understanding Tooth Sealants

Sealants are used to fill in narrow grooves in a tooth that cannot be adequately cleaned by brushing. In some cases, the tooth structure has fine grooves or pits which accumulate plaque which will develop cavities over time. We apply a coating that seals the grooves and pits, making it possible to prevent decay. We recommend that all children should have sealants.

A Brief Introduction to Tooth Sealants

Even though you may not have heard much about them, tooth sealants can prevent the vast majority of cavities that lead to tooth loss, infections, and unsightly tartar buildup.  Basically, a sealant is a fluoride carrying compound that is bonded to the teeth.  It is used most often on back teeth where natural pits and other characteristics of the chewing surface tend to make it difficult to clean thoroughly.  In most cases, tooth sealants form one of the most important procedures in dentistry for children.

For the most part, bonding various compounds to tooth enamel became possible in the 1950’s.  That said, it was not until 1971 that sealants were officially adopted by the ADA. While many dentists today are aware of tooth sealants, you may not hear about them unless you have children or read about them from other sources.

  • Never worry about getting cavities in back teeth.
  • Protect chewing surfaces from damage associated with inability to clean properly.
  • Ensure that fluoride reaches surfaces most in need of its protection.
  • Prevent chewing surfaces from being eroded by childhood bruxism.
  • Reduce or eliminate the need for root canals required to deal with dental pain.

When it comes right down to it, few other dental procedures offer as much preventative power as dental sealants. Even if your child is not able to properly brush his/her back teeth, you will never need to worry about vital chewing surfaces being damaged by plaque and tartar buildup. In addition, since well placed tooth sealants can last for decades, your child will never have to worry about needing root canals or other procedures that are required to resolve infections or cavities.

Problems Associated with Tooth Sealant Procedures

In general, placing sealants is a fairly straightforward, simple procedure. Typically, the dentist will clean the tooth area where the sealant is applied, and make sure that is free of debris and saliva. As simple as this may sound, a careless dentist can wreak havoc. For example, if saliva gets under the sealant, or the tooth is not cleaned properly, the sealant may not remain attached to the tooth for very long. In addition, if bacteria happen to get in, the sealant will serve to harbor them. This can lead to cavities and other problems. Some other problems that may occur with tooth sealants include:

  • Inability to detect cavities that may develop under the sealant
  • Plaque building up around the edges of the sealant if it is not placed properly
  • Sealant may fall out at an unexpected moment

If you go to a reputable dentist, you should be able to obtain a sealant that will save you from getting cavities. Unfortunately, if the dentist does not have enough experience with these procedures, or does not take proper care with the entire process, the sealant may cause more problems than it solves. This is even more important to consider if you want your children to have tooth sealants on back teeth.