Our teeth are covered with a sticky film of bacteria, called plaque (sounds like PLAK). 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, requiring cavity filling. To keep decay from starting here, Dr. Kuske may recommend dental sealants. Although sealants are usually associated with children’s teeth, dental sealants for adults are becoming more prevalent.
How do sealants work?
A dental sealant is a plastic material (resin) applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. The sealant material flows into the pits and grooves in the teeth. The sealant acts as a barrier, protecting enamel by sealing out plaque, bacteria, and food.
How are sealants applied?
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.
How long do sealants last?
Sealants usually last several years before they need to be replaced. Over time, sealants can become loose or worn. Then they may not protect the teeth as well. Chewing on ice or hard foods can also break down sealants. During regular dental visits, Dr. Kuske will check your sealants and reapply them if needed.