A sealant is a thin, plastic coating applied to the chewing surface of molars, premolars and any deep grooves (called pits and fissures) of teeth. More than 75% of dental decay begins in these deep grooves. Teeth with these conditions are hard to clean and are very susceptible to decay. A sealant protects the tooth by sealing deep grooves, creating a smooth, easy to clean surface.
Sealants can protect teeth from decay for many years, but need to be checked for wear and chipping at regular dental visits.
How is it done?
The process takes only a couple of minutes per tooth.
The teeth are thoroughly cleaned and then surrounded with cotton to keep the area dry.
A special solution (etchant) is applied to the enamel surface to help the sealant bond to the teeth.
The teeth are then rinsed and dried.
Sealant material is carefully painted onto the enamel surface to cover the deep grooves or depressions. (Depending on the type of sealant used, the material will either harden automatically or with a special curing light)
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral compound found in water and soil. It is also present in foods and beverages at varying concentrations. Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by making the entire tooth surface more resistant to acid attacks from the bacteria that live in the plaque on your teeth. Fluoride also promotes remineralization (adding minerals such as calcium back in to your teeth), which aids in repairing early decay before a cavity (hole) forms in the tooth.
Professional fluoride treatments generally take just a few minutes. The fluoride may be in the form of a solution, gel, foam or varnish. Typically, it is applied with a cotton swab or brush, or it is used as a rinse or placed in a tray that is held in the mouth for several minutes.
After the treatment, you may be asked not to rinse, eat or drink for at least 30 minutes to allow the teeth to absorb the fluoride and help repair microscopic carious areas.
Are professional fluoride treatments safe?
Professional fluoride treatments are prescription strength. The dosage of fluoride in a professional treatment is supported by scientific studies, proving its effectiveness and safety. This dosage would not be safe if used at home on a daily basis.Research has shown that professional fluoride treatments are safe and effective at intervals as close as every 3 months.
There is a controversy about the safety of fluoride. Its opponents claim that it is poisonous and causes an increased risk for bone fractures, cancer, and brain toxicity. A systematic review of all the published literature on the safety of fluoride found no correlation between fluoridation of water, milk or salt and topical fluoride treatments with an increase in bone fractures or cancer.
There is risk associated with fluoride intake. If too much fluoride is ingested (like a child swallowing a tube of prescription strength fluoride toothpaste), nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are likely to occur. As long as fluoride is used as directed by your dental and medical professionals, the risk is minimal.