Sealants are thin plastic coatings applied in the dental office on the chewing surfaces of back teeth, which are prime spots for cavities. Sealants act as a barrier to prevent bacteria and food from collecting and sitting on the grooves and pits of teeth.
Sealants are best suited for permanent first molars which erupt around the age of 6 and second molars that erupt around the age of 12. It is important to have the sealant applied as soon as the tooth has fully come in. They are also indicated on the pre-molars if there are deep pits and fissures present.
Before the sealant material is applied, the tooth surface is prepared by cleaning with a dental solution that helps the sealant stick to the tooth by penetrating the enamel.
Sealants may last for several years once applied, but should always be examined at the child’s regular checkup. Even if the sealant becomes lost, the material that has penetrated the enamel will still provide protection. Sealants are easily replaced if lost.
Sealants are nearly 100% effective in preventing decay in the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. Fluoride helps fight decay on the smooth surfaces of the teeth.
Brushing is an essential part of the tooth-cleaning process. Brushing removes plaque from chewing surfaces, cheek and tongue, sides of the teeth and the gumline where periodontal disease often begins.
Most people tend to brush too hard so we strongly advise the use of a soft or electric toothbrush. It is also a good idea to change your toothbrush about every three months.
For the back teeth, hold the brush at a 45 degree angle in relation to the gumline (Step 1). Use short, circular strokes as you move the brush at the junction of the gums and teeth. Brush the chewing surfaces of these teeth by holding the brush parallel to the surface of the teeth and brushing back and forth.
For the tongue side of the front teeth, hold the brush so that the bristles at the top of the brush contact the gums at a 45 degree angle (Step 2). Again, use short, circular stokes to clean the teeth. For the cheek side, hold the brush from the side at a 45 degree angle and use short, circular strokes (Step 3).
You can also brush the surface of your tongue to remove the bacteria and debris that reside on the surface.
For flossing instructions, please see How to Floss.