Properly placed sealants in the occlusal (biting surface) grooves of children’s permanent teeth is an important way to help prevent tooth decay. Thin, deep grooves on the biting surfaces of posterior teeth improve food-chewing efficiency but, unfortunately, sticky food readily packs into those thin grooves. Sticky sweets like Gummy Bears, Jolly Ranchers, Granola Bars, Milk Duds, Power bars and all caramel-like gummy, sticky candies and even marketed “health” bars are the primary foods that pack into these grooves. Bacteria like sugar. Bacteria digs into the sugar packed into the deep teeth grooves, then secretes an acid which decays the teeth from within the grooves. The grooves are so thin toothbrush bristles cannot access the grooves to brush out the bacteria and sticky sweet.
Sealants fill the grooves with a hard plastic-like material that seals within and to the sides of the teeth grooves. It is important the sealants are correctly placed. The teeth to be “sealed” must be kept dry during placement or the sealants will not bond properly to the teeth. This means saliva must be kept off the teeth while the sealants are being placed. This procedure often requires the aide of a dental assistant in addition to the dental hygienist or dentist placing the sealants. Another important part of sealant placement is that the teeth grooves must be cleaned out. If the grooves contain sticky sweet and are not cleaned out prior to sealant placement, the sealant may not bond properly to the teeth.
Bottom line: Sealant placement is important, but not as simple as patients may think if they are correctly placed. Both my daughters received sealants on their molar and bicuspid permanent teeth as soon as those teeth came in. We are about to place sealants on my 5-year-old granddaughter’s first molar permanent teeth. It is important the sealants are placed as soon as the permanent teeth erupt so decay does not occur in the grooves of the teeth before the sealants are placed.
Most children should begin having their teeth checked and cleaned in the dental office when they are 3 years old. Parents should consult with their dentist or the Internet before their children are born so procedures are in place to prevent decay of the baby teeth prior to beginning dental appointments. The baby teeth should be brushed and flossed nightly just like permanent teeth.
Having healthy teeth is easy, you just have to be informed and follow a few simple procedures!
To schedule an appointment with Waco dentist, Steven T. Cutbirth DDS, call us today at (254) 772-5420.