Sealants are, perhaps, the most preventive dental treatment available today. Applied correctly, sealants protect your teeth from the cavities that grow in the deep grooves of your teeth. Those cavities are often not preventable without sealants, even for the most avid brusher/flosser. Here’s why:
When teeth develop, they develop in lobes rather than growing as a whole unit. Those lobes grow until they come together to make a tooth. At the junction where the lobes come together, a groove exists in the tooth. This groove is not always coalesced or sealed tight, and often a microscopic crevice exists in the groove. The crevice is way too small for a toothbrush bristle to clean inside of it, but it’s giant in size compared to bacteria. Bacteria collects in the crevice and are never cleaned out. There the bacteria live, protected, for many years. The bacteria will produce acid that dissolves your enamel inside the crevice, and a cavity will form in the tooth. The bacteria continue to multiply and eat away at the tooth, and once they make it to the softer inside of the tooth the cavity spreads quickly inside of your tooth.
Sealants prevent this process. Here’s how:
Your dentist, hygienist or dental assistant cleans out the crevice and applies a conditioner (etch) down inside the crevice. This conditioner kills the bacteria while etching the surface of the enamel. When the conditioner is rinsed away, the bacterial infection is rinsed away too. The tooth is isolated in a way that when the tooth is dried (after rinsing the etch), no saliva can get back onto the tooth until the sealant is placed. The sealant is a resin coating or varnish that coats the tooth, flows into the crevice, bonds to the enamel, and hardens (usually with the help of a blue light) seals the entire tooth. Applied correctly, the tooth now has a shield and no crevice, which will prevent bacteria from living there unprotected.
A sealant should last 10-20 years and should be replaced with new sealants after it wears off. Dr. Estep believes so strongly in sealants, she recommends that every groove of every tooth should be sealed in children and adults. Baby teeth should not get cavities, and Dr. Estep believes even baby teeth should be sealed. A cavity is a bacterial infection in a tooth, and a sealant is an excellent way to prevent this kind of tooth decay.