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Sealing Out Tooth Decay

How do sealants prevent cavities?


A sealant is a clear of white plastic resin material that is applied to the pits and grooves on the back teeth.  This is where 80% of all childhood caries (cavities) are found.  The sealant acts as a barrier to food, plaque and acid, protecting these decay-prone areas of the teeth.  These areas are often difficult to access with a toothbrush.


If the pediatric dentist evaluates a child to be at high risk for developing tooth decay, he or she may recommend sealants on additional teeth with deep grooves, likely to develop decay.


Dental sealants do not enhance the health of the tooth directly.  They are just one of the preventative tools, like biannual checkups and excellent daily home care, that can keep our smiles healthy.  They are less costly, less uncomfortable and more esthetically pleasing than fillings.


How are sealants applied?


Initially the dentist or dental assistant will clean the teeth.  The sealant is then placed with a tiny instrument on every groove and pit.  A blue spectrum natural light will be flashed for 6-8 seconds to harden the sealant.  The final result is a clear to white layer of thin, hard, durable sealant.


The “sealing” procedure only takes one visit and is entirely painless.


When should sealants be applied?


Sealants are usually placed on the permanent molars as soon as they erupt into the mouth.  If the child is high risk for tooth decay and can tolerate the procedure, they may be recommended in primary (baby) molars.  Depending on the oral habits of the child, the sealant may last for years or need to be replaced periodically.


The health of the sealant must be monitored at each 6 month check up.  If the sealant begins to lift off of the tooth, food particles may become trapped against the enamel and cause tooth decay.


Please address questions about dental sealants with Dr. Drennon.