Using Sealants and Fluoride to Prevent Tooth Decay
By Dr. Jerry Brown
February 28, 2012
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Sealants and fluoride are tools that can be used to prevent cavities from forming, thus saving a tooth from a lifetime of repair and maintenance.

What are sealants?

 

Permanent molars with deep grooves and pits on the chewing surface are some of the most susceptible areas in children to form cavities.  These pits and grooves are most vulnerable in young children due to their lack of oral hygiene skills, dexterity, and diet high in processed sticky sugars.  The first permanent molars typically erupt around age six, and the chewing surfaces of these molars are often formed with deep grooves and pits.  These areas can easily become clogged with food debris that is nearly impossible to remove.  The sticky processed sugars often found in today’s diet are prime catalysts for cavities.  Placing sealants on the teeth as soon as they erupt helps prevent decay from starting.

A sealant is a filling material that starts out as a thick liquid and fills in the grooves and pits of tooth surface.  Once placed it is cured with a visible light that hardens the material in seconds.  There is no need to numb the tooth unlike when a filling is placed to restore a cavity.  The sealant may chip or wear over time and can be simply re-sealed if needed.  Sealants do not make a tooth bullet proof so don’t neglect hygiene or have an undisciplined diet.  The sides of the teeth and in between the teeth are vulnerable to decay as the sealant does not protect those surfaces.  Sealants should be placed on all of the adult molars as well as the bicuspid teeth if these teeth have deep grooves and pits.

How is fluoride beneficial?

The use of fluoride is another great way to help prevent tooth decay.  Fluoride is a natural element that is found in trace amounts in water supplies and foods that we consume.  Fluoride has been incorporated into toothpastes, gels, and mouth rinses, and acts as an anti-cavity agent.  It can also act as a desensitizing agent for teeth that are cold or sweet sensitive. 

Our teeth are in a constant state of war.  They are being demineralized by the acids in the foods we consume as well as by acids produced by bacteria in our mouths.  This is counteracted by the action of fluoride, calcium and other minerals to re-mineralize these surfaces.  Normally a balance is kept such that no appreciable amount of demineralization occurs.  When this balance is tipped in favor of demineralization, cavities become evident at a clinical or radiographic level.  For most people, with good diet and hygiene , fluoridated toothpaste is a sufficient source of fluoride for oral care.  Patients with less than optimal hygiene and diet or those who have weaker enamel can benefit from other sources of fluoride.  Mouth rinses with fluoride, prescription gels, and fluoride tablets can help to remineralize enamel and keep teeth cavity-free.

Fluoride is especially important for children who may not have the best oral hygiene habits or dexterity and consume diets high in processed carbohydrates and sugars.  Mouth rinses should be checked for alcohol content as this tends to dry the oral tissues and can be uncomfortable.   Also, excess fluoride exposure should be avoided especially in young children.  Be sure to follow the directions and when using fluoridated toothpaste with young children, it is best to use only a pea size amount to prevent ingestion of significant amounts of fluoride.

If you have any questions about sealants or fluoride for your children, please contact our office at (937) 434-8870 or e-mail us at [email protected].  Visit our website to read other articles about dental health and to learn more about our office.

 

The Almoney and Brown Dental Team      

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