As the new school year approaches you probably have a long to-do list including buying school supplies, making sure your kids have finished their reading lists, shopping for new clothes and shoes, and last but not least… a dental checkup. While your kids were getting their teeth checked, the dentist or hygienist may have recommended dental sealants, but what are they?
What is a dental sealant?
A dental sealant is a thin plastic coating applied to the pits and grooves of teeth to prevent cavities from forming (usually the chewing surfaces). There is no need for anesthetic and they can be completed in a few short minutes at a routine professional cleaning and checkup.
Who would benefit from a dental sealant?
The first step is to identify teeth that may benefit from sealants. Both children and adults that have naturally deep pits and grooves on the chewing surfaces of their back teeth are most likely to benefit.
Deep pits and grooves in teeth can be difficult to clean and are more susceptible to developing cavities. Unfortunately, cavities are the most common chronic disease in children and adolescents with it being four times more common than asthma among teenagers between 14 and 17. In adults, 9 out of 10 over the age of 20 have some degree of tooth decay.
How are sealants applied?
The teeth must be very clean to ensure the sealant adheres properly to the teeth. This is why sealants are often applied during a routine professional cleaning and checkup. An ultrasonic cleaner or a fine pumice may be used to gently remove any sticky bacterial plaque and food debris from the grooves of the teeth.
Once the teeth are cleaned, they must be isolated and dried so the sealant can stick to the tooth surfaces. Then the sealant material is applied to the teeth. It is a tooth colored liquid that can penetrate into the deepest pits and grooves.
After the sealant is applied to the teeth and any excess is removed, a powerful curing light is used to activate the sealant material, hardening it onto the teeth.
As a final check, we use one of our dental instruments to verify that the sealant has hardened onto the teeth, that it does not easily come off, and that it will prevent any cavity causing substances from reaching the depths of the pits and grooves of the teeth.
Give us a call to schedule your dental checkup and professional cleaning before the school year starts and get started on the path towards excellent dental health!
1 Dye BA, Tan S, Smith V, Lewis BG, Barker LK, Thornton-Evans G, et al. Trends in oral health status: United States, 1988–1994 and 1999–2004. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 11(248). 2007.