Brushing and flossing remain the best ways to help prevent cavities, but it’s next to impossible to clean every bit of tooth surface, particularly the back teeth that may have deep pits and grooves. These teeth are a favorite place for leftover food and cavity-causing bacteria to hide. There’s help for that. A sealant is a thin, protective coating that is literally painted onto the chewing surface of your back teeth. Effectively sealing the deep pits and grooves that brushing can’t reach and making it easier to keep the back teeth clean. It essentially acts as a barrier, protecting enamel from plaque and acids. In fact, sealants have been shown to reduce the risk of decay in molars by nearly 80%. This report is especially good for children’s dental health.
As explained earlier, sealants literally create a seal over the grooves and pits of back teeth, or molars, the teeth most susceptible to cavity formation. A cavity forms when bacteria (which can live in everyone’s mouth) couple with food particles to produce acids that, in turn, can create holes in teeth, known as cavities. After sealant has been applied it keeps those bits of food out and stops bacteria and acid from settling on your teeth. You can see why it’s such a great preventive measure for children’s teeth, since their brushing attempts are always less than ideal. But they work great for adults too.
After cleaning and drying the teeth to be treated, Dr. Hartzell “paints” an acidic gel on your teeth. This gel forms a roughness on your tooth surface which will allow a strong bond to form between your tooth and the sealant. After only a few seconds, he will rinse off the gel and again dry your tooth before applying the sealant onto the grooves of your tooth, and finally hardening the sealant. With a curing light, it takes only a few minutes to treat and seal each tooth. They can last several years before needing to be reapplied. The condition of your sealants will be checked during your regular dental visits.
As a final plus concerning sealants, they can actually be painted over suspicious tooth areas; ones that look like they may be trying to progress into a cavity. Early sealing may help slow down this progression. Ask Dr. Hartzell about sealants for any of those areas you have concerns about.