Most people know that brushing and flossing your teeth are the most proven way to prevent dental decay. These two things combined with twice yearly visits to the dentist are the best bet for never having to experience a dental filling or a crown.
However, it is not always the easiest thing to completely clean all of the small nooks and crannies in your teeth. This is especially true if you are blessed with deep tooth grooves. The molars, or back chewing teeth, in our mouths are often the teeth with these deeper pits and fissures. Their surface is often rough and uneven and is a great place to store leftover food and cavity-causing bacteria.
There is one dental invention that can help prevent those pesky bacteria from causing permanent destruction on your molars: dental sealants. Sealants are a thin, protective plastic coating placed on the back chewing teeth. In combination with good oral hygiene habits, sealants can keep cavities from forming.
Sealants have been shown to reduce the risk of decay in molars by 80%. The Centers for Disease Control released a report in 2016 that detailed the importance of sealants for school aged children. It noted that only 43% of 6 to 11 year olds have dental sealants. Kids without sealants are three times more likely to have cavities than children with sealants.
The actual procedure for placing a sealant is quick and non invasive. It involves isolating the tooth to be sealed, cleaning it with a pumice mixture, applying an acid etch and bonding agent, followed by applying the actual sealant material. It only take a few minutes per tooth.
A sealant is a purely physical barrier on the tooth that creates a smooth surface on an otherwise rough, uneven surface. Dentists will typically apply sealants to permanent molars. Children get one set of these molars around age 6 and a second set around age 12.
Sealants can last for several years. At your regular dental visits, the dentist will check the sealants to ensure they are still properly in place. Given the amount of cavity prevention a sealant provides, it is a no brainer to ask for these on all of your molars. The great thing about sealants is that they can be applied to any unrestored tooth at any age. Adults and kids alike can enjoy the cavity fighting advantage of having dental sealants.