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Monday, December 9, 2013

The Grooves of Dental Sealants

Tooth decay, which causes dental caries (or cavities), is a common yet chronic disease that causes pain and disability in more than 6 billion people worldwide—adults and children alike. Decay occurs when the bacteria (often caused by the build-up of plaque) produce acid that eats away at the tooth. If left untreated, decay can lead to pain, infection, tooth loss, or require tooth extraction.

Luckily, there are effective options that help reduce the occurrence of tooth decay and halt any further growth in teeth that may have already been infected. Dental sealants are the most notable preventive measures, that—when first introduced in the 1960s—helped transform the way we treat dental decay today. Dental sealants are thin, plastic coatings that keep food and plaque from getting trapped in the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
Sealant Pic Applying sealants is a simple and painless procedure that takes only a few minutes to complete. Sealants are a gel-like, plastic substance painted directly onto the tooth enamel (after being thoroughly cleaned and prepped) where it bonds to the tooth and hardens. They can protect teeth for up to 10 years; however, they need to be checked for chipping or wearing during bi-annual exams.

Many dentists recommend that children get sealants on their permanent molars as soon as their teeth come in—between ages 5-7 for their “6-year molars” and between ages 11-14 for their “12-year molars.” Dentists may suggest sealants for other teeth with deep pits or grooves as well because they are more susceptible to plaque and food build-up. Sealants may also be suggested for teenagers and young adults who are prone to decay.

Adults who are already experiencing the beginning stages of tooth decay or plaque build-up can still receive sealants to halt any further erosion. Studies have shown that decay does not continue to spread once sealants are in place[1]. However, a healthy tooth is the best type of tooth, so protecting it before decay begins is optimal.

Many dental insurance programs will cover sealants. However, if your insurance or state Medicaid program does not cover this procedure, book your appointment with a dentist and save up to 50% on yours or your child’s care, whether it be for sealants or otherwise.

Talk to your dentist about whether sealants may be an option for you and/or your child. Brushing and flossing twice a day or between meals is imperative to maintaining a healthy mouth; however, taking further preventive measures, such as with sealants, will keep decay at bay for the long term.

[1] "ADA Report on Importance of Dental Sealant Use." Newswise. American Dental Association, 4 Feb. 1997. Web. 09 Dec. 2013.