Regular brushing and flossing are part of a healthy oral hygiene routine. To an extent, they help to keep dental defects and infections at bay. However, regular brushing and flossing are not enough to stop dental plaques from infesting the mouth. The teeth, especially the molars and premolars, possess rough surfaces known as grooves or fissures. These grooves or fissures can harbor dental plaques or their causal agents.
Dental plaques are sticky, slimy bacterial films that stick to the surface of the teeth. Dental plaques are formed when there is a mixture of saliva, food remnants, and bacteria in the mouth. Dental plaques can harden and become tartar(brownish or orange in color) and cause discoloration. These plaques release acid that eats at the tooth enamel, wears it down, and causes tooth decay. The grooves present on the surface of the molars and premolars can harbor food remnants long enough to produce dental plaques.
Dental examinations and cleanings do a better job at cleaning out these dental plaques, food remnants, and bacteria from their hiding places in the teeth. However, dental examinations and cleanings are periodic and can only be done by a dental professional. Therefore, the perfect solution to dental plaques, bacteria, and food remnants is to prevent them from staying in the mouth through the use of dental sealants.
Dental sealants are wafer-thin, plastic coatings placed or painted on the chewing (occlusal) surface of the permanent teeth. There are four types of teeth in the mouth namely the incisors, canine, premolars, and molars. The premolars and the molars are the teeth used for grinding and chewing food. They possess rough surfaces referred to as grooves which are difficult to clean with regular brushing and flossing. Therefore, by placing or painting dental sealants on these rough surfaces, they help to offer protection against the formation and infestation of the mouth with dental plaques.
Sealants can bond into the tooth and offer protection for the tooth enamel. It is advisable to get dental sealants for kids as soon as they lose their milk teeth and they are replaced with permanent teeth. This would help to form a protection against tooth decay and dental cavities.
While dental sealants are most suitable for kids, they can also be used for adults who are at risk of dental caries and cavities. The first step in getting a dental sealant is the thorough cleaning of the tooth’s surface. This can be done with a paste, water, and a rotating brush to rid the teeth of existing dental plaques and food remnants. After this, the tooth is rinsed thoroughly with water and dried. An acidic solution is then applied to the surface of the teeth for a few seconds before being rinsed off. The acidic solution helps to create a rough surface that allows the dental sealants to stick well to the teeth. After rinsing off the acidic solution, the tooth is dried again and the liquid sealant is placed on the tooth. The liquid sealant is then hardened with ultraviolet light to become a hard plastic varnish coating.
Dental sealants can last for years depending on the way they are used. Although they are prone to cracks, a new dental sealant can always be placed over the tooth.