Monday, September 19, 2011

Sealants: A way to seal cavities

By Aishwarya Jayadeep

I still remember vividly the first caries that I ever had. It was on the biting surface of my first lower left  molar  when I was about 10 years old. Now I realize that had I treated my teeth with sealants (and not taken chocolates before going to bed..or had brushed my tooth afterwards as my parents had asked me to :-) ), I could have avoided the onset of caries. I can't blame my parents for not giving me sealant treatment. I am sure they would have done it had that been available then. But in this time and age when there is this option, I still find parents who don't take this as an effective measure to prevent caries; that too even when the dentists suggest doing it. This posting is for those of you who are in two minds about getting sealants for their little ones or for those who haven't heard of this wonder method to prevent caries on the biting surfaces.

Studies have shown that sealants are very effective in preventing dental decay. Studies suggest that dental sealants can lower the risk of cavities by up to 90%.
Sealants are applied to the chewing surfaces of molars to act as a barrier between the tooth and harmful bacteria. They are most effective when applied to decay-susceptible biting surfaces on the grooves and  pits of the teeth as soon as the teeth come out. Here's how sealants work: The sealing material is applied to the tooth surface using an "etching" fluid. The sealant partially penetrates the tooth enamel, ensuring that it is firmly attached to the tooth. Once applied, the sealant fills in the tooth's grooves, hardens and creates a thin plastic barrier that keeps cavity-causing bacteria out of the pits and fissures. There is no drilling and no discomfort.
A dental sealant can only provide adequate protection when it is fully intact. If you notice that even a small portion of the entire sealant has come off you should let your dentist know.

Not all teeth require the protection that dental sealants can provide. .

  1. It is the shape of their grooves (pits and fissures) that can place some teeth at greater risk for cavity formation than others. Those people whose grooves are deep and narrow will have a more urgent need for dental sealants than those people whose grooves are naturally shallow and rounded as tooth brush bristles will not be able to reach the food lodged in the narrow deep groves hence providing a breeding area for the caries causing bacteria.
  2. Beyond pit and fissure anatomy, your dentist will consider other variables that might indicate that a tooth is at risk for developing decay and thus a candidate for a sealant. They will evaluate the amount of dental plaque they find present, the amount of decay the patient has experienced in the past, and the patient's current exposure to an appropriate amount of fluoride.

Molars, the first of a child's permanent back teeth to come out, are typically sealed at around age 6. Other permanent teeth can be treated when they too first appear. Usually the last teeth to be sealed are the permanent second molars, which comes out at around age 12. Of course, teeth that don't yet have this protection can be sealed at any point or age.
An adult's teeth also can be sealed, although this procedure is typically utilized as a preventive measure for children so to help protect their teeth during those years when they are most likely to experience tooth decay. The need for dental sealants for either a child's or an adult's teeth should be considered on a case by case basis.

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