What Are Sealants and When Are They Needed?

While brushing and flossing are excellent practices to keep tooth decay and cavities at bay, it’s not always easy to reach and effectively clean every groove and crevice, especially on the teeth at the back of the mouth. We, at Dental Care of North Carolina, are proud to offer preventive dentistry services, including dental sealants, to safeguard your oral health and ensure long-term healthy smiles.

What Are Cavities and How Do They Develop?

Cavities are holes or openings on the tooth enamel caused by tooth decay. If not treated, the damage will continue to progress, potentially causing pain and infection. Tooth decay and cavities result from various factors, including harmful bacteria in the mouth, frequent snacking on sugary treats, and improper oral hygiene practices.

The most likely location for tooth decay and cavities to develop is on the chewing surfaces of molars and premolars found at the back of the mouth. These surfaces contain tiny depressions known as pits and fissures. Plaque and food debris accumulate in these crevices, allowing the bacteria to flourish and produce acids that attack the tooth enamel, resulting in tooth decay. Unlike the rest of the body, teeth cannot heal themselves, so damage from cavities is permanent.

What Are Dental Sealants and How Do They Work?

Dental sealants are thin, transparent plastic resin coatings that we paint onto the chewing surfaces of the teeth at the back of the mouth. When applied, dental sealants bond to the depressions and grooves of teeth, forming a protective shield that stops plaque and acid from eroding the tooth enamel and causing tooth decay. Moreover, sealants have been shown to be effective for use over areas with early decay to prevent further damage.

More Reasons To Consider Protecting Your Teeth with Dental Sealants

Teeth without cavities are much stronger and healthier than those with dental fillings or untreated decay. Sealants offer a quick and painless way to prevent tooth decay and are easier to apply and more affordable than dental fillings. Once placed, they protect against more than 80 percent of cavities for two years and continue to protect against about 50 percent of cavities for up to four years.

Do You Still Need Fluoride if You Have Dental Sealants?

Dental sealants only protect the chewing surfaces they seal off and cover. However, fluoride helps protect all the tooth surfaces from tooth decay. So a combination of fluoride and dental sealants will provide the best protection from cavities.

Who Is a Candidate for Dental Sealants?

Sealants are primarily used to protect the teeth of children, teens, and young adults. Adults are also candidates for sealants, especially if they are at risk for cavities. Everyone is different, with unique needs, so it’s best to talk to your trusted team at Dental Care of North Carolina to determine if sealants are right for you.

When Are Dental Sealants Needed?

When it comes to adults, the best time to get sealants is right now. Don’t wait for decay or toothaches to develop. As far as children are concerned, the earlier dental sealants are placed, the better. These protective shields prevent the most cavities when applied soon after the permanent molars erupt, between ages 5 and 7 for the first set of molars, and between ages 11 and 14 for the second set of molars. Sealing molars as soon as they come in will help keep them cavity-free right from the start, preventing the need for invasive and costly treatments down the road. 

What Is the Dental Sealant Procedure?

Applying dental sealants is a quick and comfortable procedure. We will start with a thorough cleaning session and will dry your teeth. Next, we will place an acidic solution on the chewing surfaces to roughen them up, which enables the sealant material to bond to the teeth. We will rinse and dry your teeth, then paint the sealant onto your tooth enamel. We may use a special curing light to help harden the material. The resulting plastic varnish coating will act as a shield, protecting your teeth from being exposed to food debris, plaque, and bacteria.

How Long Do Sealants Last?

Dental sealants typically last from five to ten years, after which they may need replacing. During your routine dental exams and cleanings, we will check the sealants to ensure they are free from chips or damage and that they continue to provide your teeth with the best protection.

Caring for Your Sealed Teeth

Having teeth protected with dental sealants doesn’t mean you should neglect to brush and floss your teeth. Make sure to maintain proper oral hygiene care, and don’t forget to schedule your routine dental exams and cleanings. These practices will help ensure you enjoy long-term healthy smiles.

Dental Sealants Near Me

Contact Dental Care of North Carolina to learn more about dental sealants and how they can help prevent decay. As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Our goal is to help you maintain healthy teeth for a lifetime. Call us and schedule your appointment today!

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