When we take care of our teeth by brushing at least twice a day, flossing after meals, and visiting the dentist for regular check-ups, the results show. If we begin to neglect our teeth, skipping a few brushing and flossing sessions, our teeth can easily become host to a wide array of harmful bacteria. Bacteria build-up in your mouth is a recipe for disaster. Just like other areas of our body, our teeth are susceptible to infection caused by the build-up of harmful bacteria and can cause teeth to decay over time. Tooth decay and infection can cause several problems, including root canals and cavities. If our teeth are protected from bacterial build-up, they can escape decay and remain strong and healthy. This is where dental sealants come into the picture.
What are dental sealants?
A dental sealant is a thin, plastic coating that is applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth to help shield them from harmful bacteria that could cause infection and disease. A dental sealant is usually applied to the back teeth, which includes the premolars and molars. Once the dental sealant is applied, it quickly forms a bond with the tooth and fills in the depressions and grooves on the chewing surface of the tooth; this serves as an effective shield to protect your tooth’s enamel. Despite the best oral cleaning routines and efforts to remove all food particles from the mouth, it is difficult to reach every groove in your tooth with a simple toothbrush. Food particles can and sometimes do remain lodged inside the grooves of your back teeth and begin to harbour bacteria. Dental sealants help provide an extra layer of protection for your teeth by sealing off these hiding places from food and plaque.
Am I a candidate for dental sealants?
Dental sealants are applied to molars and premolars because of the type of surfaces they have. These teeth have flatter surfaces with numerous grooves and depressions, creating perfect hiding places for food and plaque. Since the molars and premolars have a higher likelihood of decaying, it is recommended that children and teenagers receive dental sealants. In fact, it is ideal for children to have sealants applied to their molars and premolars as soon as their permanent teeth come in. This way, their teeth remain protected during their growing years when they are more prone to cavities. Dental sealants can protect your teeth from decay for up to 10 years; however, they should be checked at each dental visit to ensure that they haven’t been chipped or damaged. Although dental sealants are typically applied to permanent teeth, there are situations in which dental sealants may be applied to baby teeth, especially those that have a significant number of depressions and grooves. Although it may seem strange and unnecessary to apply dental sealants to baby teeth, these teeth are precious and should be protected. Baby teeth serve the important purpose of holding the correct spacing for permanent teeth. For this reason, it is essential to keep baby teeth strong and healthy, so that they don’t fall out before they are intended to. Sealants are also applied to adults as long as their molars are free of any decay or fillings.
Types of Sealants
Generally, sealants are placed on the tooth in a liquid form and then are solidified using a method known as light activation or through chemical means. The goal of the sealant is to reach the pits and grooves on the surface of your tooth. Therefore, the sealant must be in a liquid form when applied and not too thick so that it can flow easily into all the grooves of your tooth.
Sealant material can be grouped into two main categories, based on whether they undergo a chemical or a light activation reaction to be set in place. The first category includes glass ionomers, which undergo an acid-base chemical reaction as they set onto your tooth’s surface. The second category includes composite resins, which are set using a light activation method. In addition to these two main categories, which serve as the two ends of a spectrum, a number of sealants are made of a combination of these two materials and are solidified using both chemical and light activation methods.
How are sealants applied?
The application of sealant to your tooth is a quick and painless process that can be completed within a few minutes. Your dentist or hygienist will follow the steps below to apply the sealant:
- Cleaning. The teeth that are to be sealed are first thoroughly cleaned and dried, and cotton material is placed around the tooth to keep it dry.
- Preparation. An acid solution is applied to the chewing surfaces of the teeth receiving the sealant. This acid solution is used to help roughen up the surface of the tooth so that it can easily bond with the sealant. The teeth are then rinsed thoroughly and dried again.
- Application. The sealant is “painted” onto the tooth enamel, where it undergoes either a chemical or light activation reaction and bonds directly to the tooth and solidifies.
When it comes to most children, it is hard to keep them away from sugary drinks and snacks, and even harder to ensure that they maintain good oral hygiene. When children start school and begin to eat independently, it can be challenging to monitor their sugar intake, and they, unfortunately, become prone to tooth decay and cavities. When the permanent molars appear around the age of 6, dental sealants could be the exact solution you need to help protect your child’s teeth from harmful bacterial build-up and eventual tooth decay. The cost of dental sealants may be shouldered by your dental insurance, however, usually only for children under the age of 18.
Take the initiative today and help protect your child’s teeth during those cavity-prone years. Call Oakville Place Dental today to book an appointment and find out if dental sealants are the right choice for your child, or maybe even for yourself. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so don’t wait until it’s too late before taking the first step to protecting your teeth. Call Oakville Place Dental at (647) 496-2721 or click here to learn more about dental sealants and our other services.