With the help of your dental team, preventing tooth decay can become even easier. You may already be aware that daily brushing and flossing are the most important weapons against the formation of plaque, the primary cause of cavities. In addition to your regular routing of brushing and flossing your dentist can apply a coat of plastic material – called a sealant – on the top or biting surfaces of your teeth. This plastic coating creates a barrier between the plaque and the deep grooves of “fissures” on the chewing surfaces of your teeth. It “seals out” the decay-causing bacteria that live in the plaque and protects the tooth from getting a cavity on that surface.

What is plaque and how does it cause cavities?

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on your teeth and your gums. It often is found on the chewing surfaces of back teeth and is difficult to remove by brushing and flossing. If it is not removed regularly, plaque combines with the sugars and carbohydrates that we eat to produce acids. These acids attack the tooth enamel and create pits or holes (cavities) in the tooth. This is tooth decay.

How can sealants help prevent cavities?

Coating your teeth with a smooth plastic material makes it harder for plaque to stick into the tiny grooves on the biting surfaces – reducing the risk of forming cavities (tooth decay).

Is it difficult to apply sealants?

No. Your dentist or dental hygienist may use a special instrument to apply the plastic sealant on your teeth. Some need to be hardened by a special light being shone on the sealant. Most often, it is a painless treatment that lasts for many months or even years.

Who should get sealants?

Sealants are most effective in reducing cavities in children with newly formed permanent teeth. They are useful in cutting down formation of decay in adult teeth as well. An application of sealants is a preventative measure to keep teeth healthy. It is an effective way to prevent the need for fillings and more expensive treatments that may be required to repair the damage from cavities. Sealants therefore can save you money! The strongest tooth is one which has never been affected by a cavity and therefore has never had a filling.

Check with your dental team to see if you could benefit from sealants.