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What exactly causes tooth decay?

Teeth are covered with a sticky film of bacteria called plaque.  The bacteria changes sugar into harmful acids that attack the hard layer on teeth called enamel.  Over time, these attacks may break down the enamel & cause tooth decay, or cavities.  This decay often occurs on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth.  These surfaces have pits and grooves that trap plaque and bits of food.  They are hard to keep clean because toothbrush bristles cannot reach into them.  This is how decay starts and a cavity forms.  

How does a sealant work?

A dental sealant is a plastic material (resin) applied to the chewing surface of the back teeth.  Because the sealant is only applied to the biting surface, it will not protect the area between teeth.  Flossing & topical fluoride application is the best preventative measure for cavities between teeth. 

  • Dental sealants are placed on 6, and/or, 12 year permanent molars.  They are generally not placed on baby teeth. 

  • The placement of a sealant is a very easy procedure that requires no numbing, and is done by a dental hygienist.  The chewing surface of each tooth is cleaned and the sealant is applied.  A special light is then used to help "cure", or harden, the sealant. 

  • Dental sealants can be very beneficial during the years when your child's brushing & flossing habits are still being perfected.  

  • Dental sealants are not a 100% guarantee against decay.  Excellent overall hygiene habits are still necessary.

  • Not every child is a candidate for dental sealants.  It's important that they be evaluated thoroughly by their dentist to determine whether or not sealants are an option for them. 

  • The best time to have a dental sealant placed is shortly after your child's exam to ensure that no decay has developed, which would prevent the placement of the sealant. 

How long do sealants last?

Sealants may last several years before they need to be replaced.  Over time, sealants can become loose or worn.  Then they will not protect the teeth as well.  During regular dental visits, your dentist will check the sealants and can reapply them if needed. 

Many dental insurance providers are now covering sealants as a part of your child's preventative dental treatment.  However, it's recommended that you contact your own individual dental carrier to determine whether or not this is a covered benefit.  A member of our staff would be happy to submit a pre-authorization to your insurance carrier on your behalf, if you'd like. 

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