Dental sealants are used on the permanent teeth in the back of the upper and lower jaws. How effective they are depends on what extent they fill the very narrow, deep grooves of the sides and the chewing surfaces of the teeth. Dental sealants do not cover the entire tooth surface, so they are not a guarantee against tooth decay. However, they serve a very positive, preventative function in the sense that they significantly decrease the likelihood of complications in those areas of the back teeth that are most commonly prone to decay.
Dental sealants are a manufactured from either a clear or white plastic, and they are applied to the grooves in the sides and biting surfaces of molars in the back of the mouth. The reason dentists apply them is because molars have very deep pits and grooves. These areas are very difficult to keep clean, and they are very vulnerable to plaque buildup. (Plaque is a very thin film, almost invisible to the eye, of bacteria and food buildup).
Cosmetic Dentists often use a special red dye to detect plaque. It shows up very easily once it is colored. Many times people are astonished when they see how much plaque has built up on their teethespecially the ones in the back. This has to be dealt with, because the bacteria that live in plaque secrete acid as part of their life cycle. Without dental sealants, this acid will eat through tooth enamel, and decay will eventually commence. Before too long, there will be a cavity in the place which originally had only a thin, invisible film of plaque.
Cavities have the potential of completely destroying teeth. This is due to the way the tooth itself is formed. The outer layer of the tooth is the hard part we see and chew with. It is called the enamel. Although it is hard, it is not that thin. Plaque will build on this surface, and the acids that the bacteria secrete will work their way down into the secondary layer of the tooth, the dentin. This softer layer is much more vulnerable to rapid decay than is the enamel. Below this layer is the pulp, which surrounds the tooth root. If a cavity reaches this layer, the tooth will die and require a root canal to be salvaged.
Sealants, although they are only applied to the outer enamel of a tooth, in actuality help preserve the very life of the tooth by preventing cavities from forming in the first place. To apply dental sealants, the hygienist or the dentist will first give the tooth (or teeth) a very rigorous cleaning and drying. Then, the dentist will apply a conditioning solution. The sealant will then be brushed into the grooves in the molars.
There are different types of sealants. Some harden by themselves. Others have to be hardened under a special light. It is important for patients to realize that this is not a 100 percent guarantor against tooth decay, but rather a supportive treatment intended to be used in conjunction with a rigorous dental hygiene program that includes brushing, flossing, and regular dental cleanings.
Cosmetic Dentistry is a specialized field that requires extensive knowledge and experience to be done correctly. The Medical Center Dental Group in Houston, Texas brings all of that and more to the direct benefit of each and every patient we treat. Although we are located in the world famous Houston Medical Center at Scurlock Towers, we routinely see dental patients who travel from Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Beaumont and Midland Texas to see Dr. Dale Brant, Dr. Charles Campbell or Dr. Elizabeth OSullivan-Winslow for their cosmetic denistry services.