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Preventative Dentistry


Tooth decay often occurs on the chewing surfaces of back teeth. The good news is that sealants can offer major protection against tooth decay and improve your chances to stay filling-free.
What causes tooth decay? Your teeth are coated with a sticky film of bacteria called plaque. Bacteria in plaque use sugar in food and beverages as a source of energy. The bacteria convert the sugar into harmful acids that attack tooth enamel. Repeated attacks may cause the enamel to break down, resulting in cavities.
What is a sealant? A sealant is a material that is applied to the teeth where decay occurs most often—the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. These teeth have pits and grooves that are difficult to keep clean, because toothbrush bristles cannot reach into them. The sealant—a plastic resin—bonds into the pits and grooves and acts as a barrier, protecting enamel from plaque and acids.
How are sealants applied? It usually takes only a few minutes to seal each tooth. First, the teeth that will be sealed are cleaned. Second, the chewing surfaces are pre-treated with a conditioner to help the sealant stick to the tooth. Third, the sealant is ‘painted’ onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens. Sometimes a special curing light is used to help the sealant harden.
How long do sealants last? Sealants may last several years before they need to be reapplied. As long as the sealant remains intact, the tooth surface will be protected from decay. During your regular dental visits, your dentist will check the condition of the sealants and reapply them when necessary.
Are sealants just for kids? No. The chance of developing pit and groove decay begins as soon as the back teeth erupt, so children and teenagers are obvious candidates. But adults can also be at risk for this type of decay and can benefit from sealants as well.
(left image) Chewing surface of a molar before a sealant is applied.  
(right image) Chewing surface of a molar protected by a sealant.
What are other ways to prevent tooth decay and maintain a healthy mouth?
1. Brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and clean between the teeth daily with floss or other interdental cleaners.
2. Eat a balanced diet and limit snacks.
3. Visit your dentist regularly.
4. Discuss other prevention strategies with your dentist, including options for getting the fluoride you need to protect your teeth.

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