Protecting your oral health is about far more than maintaining a beautiful smile. In fact, your oral health is closely related not only to your comfort while speaking and eating, but also to the health of major organs and systems throughout your body. Preventative dental care is routinely far easier, more effective and less uncomfortable than restorative dental care, which is why many patients are eager to learn what preventative care options are available to them. This is why dental professionals recommend that you take aggressive action to ensure that your teeth and gums are truly healthy–through daily brushing and flossing, professional cleanings twice annually, thorough dental examinations at least once annually and any other treatments that will serve to further improve and maintain your oral health. One such treatment is dental sealant application–which can go one important step further in protecting the health and structure of your teeth than even daily and bi-annual cleanings.
What Are Dental Sealants?
We quickly learn that in order to protect the health of our teeth we must brush and floss them very well each and every day–sometimes even several times a day. Unfortunately, even regular, vigorous brushing can fail to effectively penetrate all the pits and grooves on our teeth, especially our premolars and molars, because the bristles on our toothbrushes are simply too large. What this means is that there is often a buildup of at least some food particles and plaque in the pits and grooves on our back teeth, the very things which lie at the root of most tooth decay problems.
Dental sealants are a thin, impenetrable, tough plastic material that is applied to the chewing surface of permanent back teeth, where they bond to the natural tooth enamel. These sealants form a protective barrier around the tooth that, according to the American Dental Association, is very effective in the prevention of tooth decay.
Applying dental sealant is a simple but very precise process. First, the tooth must be thoroughly cleaned, after which it is rinsed and dried. Second, the tooth surface is roughed up with an etching material in order to help the sealant adhere properly, after which it is again rinsed and dried. Third, the sealant is applied and a curing light is used to help it harden over the surface of the tooth. Finally, the sealant and tooth are carefully examined to ensure that the sealant is not too thick or too high and thereby affecting the patient’s proper occlusion. Any adjustments that are necessary are made at this point.
Dental sealants are often highly recommended preventative treatments for children and young adults, but their benefits are not so limited that other individuals cannot enjoy them as well. Actually, any individual of any age is susceptible to some amount of tooth decay from a variety of sources, including acidic foods, bacteria, food particles and plaque. Since dental sealants act as a barrier on the tooth, they effectively prevent decay-causing materials from penetrating the tooth or collecting in areas where they can cause damage. Simply put, they completely seal off pits and grooves so that bacteria, food particles and plaque have nowhere to hide and can therefore be more easily brushed off and removed from the teeth. This means fewer cavities and tooth decay issues, which means the individual is likely to avoid needing more costly dental care in the future.
Some Things to Keep in Mind
Dental sealants can be a great investment for any individual who wishes to further protect their teeth, but it’s important to note that they are not permanent. Normal chewing places a considerable amount of pressure on our teeth which can wear away sealants slowly and steadily over time. Most dental sealants last for anywhere between three to five years, though some can last for up to ten years. Regardless, when dental sealants have worn away they lose their effectiveness, and therefore need to be re-applied. Nonetheless, many dental professionals agree that they are a worthwhile investment, and valuable in the protection of your oral health.
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