Thursday July 5,
Dear Dr. Mady: I have four children between the ages of 6 and 14 and our dentist and hygienist recently recommended dental sealants on their permanent molar teeth. What exactly are sealants and how can they help their teeth?—Laura in Comber
Dear Laura: Like always, the most important weapons for you and your kids against tooth decay and for oral health is proper brushing and flossing and regular check-ups by their dentist.
To supplement their regular proper oral hygiene habits, your dentist or hygienist can apply a coat of light curable resin or plastic material, called a sealant, to the biting surface of your children's molar or back teeth. This coating fills in the pits and grooves of the teeth and acts as a barrier between the teeth and bacteria that live in the mouth. These teeth are important for life because they do most of the chewing during eating.
Without this protection, sugars that combine with the bacteria to form a sticky layer of plaque may adhere to the tooth surfaces and into the natural developmental grooves and pits of these teeth. It is sometimes impossible for even a toothbrush or a professional cleaning to remove it.
If not removed or dealt with in some way, this plaque can eat away at the enamel and lead to destructive tooth decay. This decay can start as a pin point on the top of the teeth where you chew and grow in a triangular pattern towards the pulp (nerve) of the tooth widening as it approaches it. Often, an individual may not even know the cavity is progressing until it hits the nerve and at that point, a root canal or extraction is indicated. These lesions in their early stages are often even challenging to detect with dental x-rays.
It is very easy to have sealants applied and they can be done painlessly in a matter of minutes. It is merely a matter of scuffing, cleaning and etching the surface of the tooth and applying a thin coating and curing it with a special light. They are most effective in preventing cavities in children with newly formed permanent molars and rarely pre-molars. (The two teeth immediately in front of the molars and behind the cuspids or eye teeth.) They should be placed soon after eruption of susceptible teeth.
Sealants can decrease the formation of decay in the teeth of adults as well. Basically, think of sealants as a preventative measure that can reduce the need for restorative dentistry and more costly dental treatment and possibly tooth loss. Remember teeth and oral health are very important because that is where nutrition and digestion begins for the entire body. Think about it!
Questions for Dr. Mady can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org and other information can be obtained on other dental topics at www.drmady.com under the articles section.
This column is reprinted with the permission of the author and The
Windsor Star. "Ask the Dentist" is written by Windsor dentist (and ECDS
member), Dr. David Mady Jr.. The column appears the first Thursday of
each month in the Windsor Star. Readers with questions can write to "Ask
The Dentist", c/o The Windsor Star, 167 Ferry St., Windsor Ontario, N9A