Causes of Tooth Decay
Your teeth are covered with a sticky film of bacteria, called plaque. Plaque bacteria use sugar and starch in food as a source of energy. The bacteria convert the sugar and starch into harmful acids that attack tooth enamel. Repeated attacks may cause the enamel to break down, resulting in cavities.
Thorough brushing and flossing help remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth. Pits and fissures however, are places that are extremely difficult to clean. Toothbrush bristles cannot reach all the way into the depressions and grooves to extract food and plaque. Sealants protect these vulnerable areas for “sealing out” plaque and food.
Sealants are easy for your dentist to apply, and it only takes a few minutes to seal each tooth. The teeth that will be sealed are cleaned. Then the chewing surfaces are conditioned to help the sealant adhere to the tooth. The sealant is then “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.
As long as the sealant remains intact, the tooth surface will be protected from decay. Sealants hold up well under the force of normal chewing and usually lasts several years before a reapplication is needed. During your regular dental visits, your dentist will check the condition of the sealants and reapply them when necessary.
Prevention is better and less expensive than treatment. When one considers that properly applied and maintained sealants are extremely effective in preventing pit and fissure decay, sealants are a very cost effective measure. Savings in both dollars and discomfort can be gained by application of sealants, rather than allowing decay and requiring the tooth to be restored.