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Dental Sealants

Our teeth are covered with a sticky film of bacteria, called plaque. When we eat or drink anything that contains sugar—such as cookies, candy, soda, juice, or sports drinks—bacteria turn the sugar into acids that can attack tooth enamel. Over time, these attacks may cause tooth decay, or cavities. The good news is that there is a way to protect teeth and prevent decay: Dental Sealants.

Why are sealants needed?
Tooth decay often begins on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. These surfaces have pits and grooves that trap plaque, bacteria, and bits of food. The pits and grooves are hard to keep clean, because toothbrush bristles cannot reach into them.

That is how decay starts in the pits and grooves and cavities form. To keep decay from starting here, the dentist may recommend dental sealants.

How is a sealant placed?
Sealants are easy to apply. It takes only a few minutes to seal each tooth. First, the tooth is cleaned and the chewing surfaces are prepared to help the sealant stick to the tooth.

Then the sealant is painted onto the chewing surface where it bonds to the tooth and hardens. A special light may be used to help the sealant harden. Sealants are generally clear or white and cannot be seen when you smile or talk. Tooth surface before a sealant is applied Tooth surface protected by a sealant.

How else can I protect teeth from tooth decay?

Sealants protect only the chewing surfaces of teeth. To prevent cavities, follow these Healthy Smile Tips:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
  • Clean between your teeth once a day with floss (preferably every night before bedtime)
  • Eat a healthy diet and limit snacks
  • Visit your dentist regularly

These good habits also stop decay from forming in between the teeth—spots that sealants cannot cover.

Who should get sealants?
Children and adults can both benefit from dental sealants in the fight against tooth decay, because each person of every age is equally at risk for developing cavities.

A sealant can be placed on a tooth that does not have a cavity in its pits and grooves. If a tooth is stained or has mild decay, your dentist may suggest you get a sealant, or another option may be necessary. If a tooth has more advanced decay, it will need a filling. Conservative prevention is always better than more aggressive treatments.

Sealants are very useful in preventing tooth decay on the back teeth (called molars) and can save patients money over time. Your dentist can make sealants part of your plan for a healthy mouth.

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