Dental Sealants Take Cavity Protection to the Next Level

Dental sealants can help save teeth

Protect your molars from decay.

Untreated tooth decay is the leading cause of enamel damage and the second-most-common reason for tooth loss in adults. Although the fight against cavities can be tough, studies show that the vast majority of tooth decay is entirely preventable when dentists take 3 specific measures.

To prevent tooth decay, a dentist must:

  1. Perform a decay risk assessment to pinpoint a patient’s individual vulnerabilities.
  2. Develop an effective preventive care program that tackles these vulnerabilities.
  3. Repair active decay with conservative restorations that preserve healthy enamel.

In order for these measures to be effective, you also need to follow your dentist’s preventive care guidelines and strongly consider opting for elective services that can further help protect your teeth from decay. This is especially true if medical conditions, prescription medications, or lifestyle habits place you in a high-risk category.

One especially effective service that protects teeth from decay is dental sealants. 

What are dental sealants?

Dental sealants are clear barriers, usually made of a composite resin or other dental-safe material, that are painted over the molars and premolars. They cure to form a plastic-like coating over the chewing surfaces of your back teeth.

If you’re a parent, you might already be familiar with dental sealants as they’re extremely popular in kids’ dentistry. However, dental sealants are just as effective for adults as they are for children.

Why are dental sealants so effective?

Bad bacteria and plaque love congregating in the nooks and crannies around your teeth rather than on the flat surfaces of your enamel. This is why it’s rare to have a cavity on the front surface of your tooth. Cavities are much more likely to develop between teeth and on the chewing surfaces of your molars and premolars. 

Dental sealants completely cover the grooves on your back teeth with a physical barrier. The barrier is essentially invisible and doesn’t interfere with eating. Best of all, once applied, sealants last roughly two to five years before needing to be reapplied. According to the CDC, sealants can prevent 80% of cavities in children in the first two years and up to 50% by year four. 

The protective material will gradually wear away, typically more quickly in adults than children because adults have a stronger chewing and bite force. Your dentist may recommend reapplication every two to three years for maximum effectiveness.

How can I get maximum protection from dental sealants?

Dental sealants are very effective but don’t make your smile impervious to all tooth decay because they only cover the back teeth. Consider them as a complement to your preventive care regimen, rather than substituting for excellent hygiene practices and frequent dental check-ups.

Take brushing and flossing seriously.

Your at-home dental care is the most important factor in cavity prevention. Following the minimum guidelines of brushing twice daily for two minutes and flossing at least once daily will keep most cavities away. However, we encourage everyone to do their best for their oral health at home. 

You might consider brushing and flossing after your main meals or upgrading to a powered toothbrush for easier plaque removal. Using a tongue scraper after flossing and before brushing and finishing with mouthwash can also help keep your breath fresh by reducing bad bacteria.

See your dentist every six months.

Routine check-ups and professional dental cleanings are crucial for removing plaque and treating tooth decay as early as possible. Even if your teeth feel great and you can’t remember the last time you felt a toothache, don’t be tempted to postpone or skip these visits. Tooth decay can happen rapidly and cause significant damage before the symptoms are obvious to you.

As for professional cleanings, your dentist’s hygienist will use advanced tools to eliminate all plaque build-up from the surfaces of your teeth and the edge of your gum pockets. At-home brushing with a powered toothbrush will remove most plaque, but it can’t remove it all. Only a professional dental cleaning will be able to do this.

The hygienists at Oxley Comprehensive Dental use the Airflow Prophylaxis Master, a state-of-the-art tool that gently but effectively removes the most stubborn plaque and sticky biofilm from your enamel. It also gently blasts away hidden plaque residing in your gum pockets, which could cause gingivitis or gum disease if not removed biannually. 

We also recommend the optional topical fluoride treatment after the cleaning to strengthen your enamel. 

Cosmetic and General Dental Care in North Carolina

Dr. Oxley is a compassionate and skilled New Bern dentist who prioritizes prevention and doing whatever he can to help patients stop oral health problems before they can cause damage. Dental sealants are just one of many solutions we provide to both children and adults. If it’s been close to or over six months since your last visit, or you’re interested in having dental sealants placed, contact our office to schedule an appointment.