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July 31st, 2014

The chewing surfaces of the molar teeth are made more effective by an irregular pattern of grooves and protuberances (called pits, fissures, and cusps) which allow you to properly grind your food. However, these pits and fissures can often become a very susceptible place for the entrapment of food debris. This food debris can encourage the production of bacterial plaque, which can then lead to the formation of a cavity on the biting surface of the molar. Pit and fissure sealants are an effective means of protecting these surfaces and preventing decay. In molars where the pits and fissures are deep and difficult to keep clean, the sealant will “block out” the deepest areas, making it more difficult for the bacterial plaque to stick to the tooth’s biting surface.

Most dentists recommend sealants as regular preventive treatment for children when the first molars are erupted. The procedure is relatively simple and completely painless. First, the tooth is thoroughly cleaned, then a special etchant is placed on the enamel. This seaves the surface of the enamel microscopically rough and easy to bond, like lightly sanding wood before painting. Finally, liquid plastic is flowed into the pits and fissures, and a special light source is used to harden the resin and adhere it to the tooth. Sealants usually last for several years, and should be replaced when they wear out.
Although nothing is 100 % effective in the prevention of cavities, sealants have proven to be an extremely safe way of minimizing the formation of cavities on the biting surfaces of certain teeth. And they aren’t just for kids. Adult teeth that are prone to decay can be sealed effectively as well. Another new type of sealant, called Icon, is now being used for smooth surfaces of adult teeth both exposed and between teeth in the back of the mouth. When early decay is detected on x-ray examination, it is possible to treat it with this sealant without any numbing or drilling. Any decay that is sealed in is inactivated since it can no longer get nutrients. Any treatment that is both effective and less invasive is a positive.

From the desk of Dr. Stuart F. Fass, D.D.S.

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