IN HOT SPRINGS
When it comes to preventing tooth decay and cavities, brushing and flossing your teeth are critically important. Additionally, Porter Dental Health Clinic offers a special dental material called a sealant that provides extra protection against tooth decay.
Dentists have used these thin plastic coatings for decades to shield the teeth from cavity-causing bacteria and leftover food particles. Painted onto the chewing surface of the teeth, sealants act as a physical barrier to block out bacteria and acid. Sealants are considered a very safe and cost-effective preventative dentistry strategy, and they can last up to several years at a time.
Although sealants are not a substitute for brushing and flossing, they are very useful for keeping the teeth healthy. According to the Centers for Disease Control, school-aged children without sealants are three times more likely to get cavities than children with sealants.
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When and Where Are Sealants Used?
Sealants are primarily used on the back teeth (e.g., the premolars and molars). The chewing surfaces of these teeth have many grooves and depressions where bacteria and food debris love to hide. Forming a physical shield over the enamel of the teeth prevents bacteria and food debris from accumulating in these tiny nooks and crannies.
Anyone can get a sealant at any age. However, children and teenagers are ideal candidates for sealants because the earlier they can have the plastic coatings placed over their teeth, the less likely they are to develop cavities.
Sometimes sealants are placed over existing areas of early decay to prevent it from worsening. If this is the case, we will check the tooth regularly to make sure the sealant is working and the decay has not progressed.
The Process of Getting a Dental Sealant
Sealants can usually be placed during a relatively quick in-office procedure. There is normally no pain or discomfort.
First, the tooth or teeth receiving the sealant is cleaned and dried. Drs. Porter or Warren place a special acidic gel over the tooth’s chewing surface to prepare it to receive the sealant. The gel lightly roughens up the tooth enamel to improve the bond between the tooth and the sealant.
After wiping off the gel and drying the tooth again, we paint the liquid plastic sealant material over the grooves of the tooth, using a special blue light to harden the sealant material.
Once in place, sealants cannot be seen or felt. They keep leftover bits of food out of the deep grooves of the teeth, and prevent bacteria and acids from settling on the teeth and turning into cavities.
Sealants are very durable and can withstand normal biting and chewing forces. Drs. Porter and Warren check the integrity of a sealant during every dental visit and can reapply the sealant when needed.