Sealing Out Tooth Decay

Tooth decay has become increasingly prevalent in preschoolers.  Not only is tooth decay unpleasant and painful, it can also lead to more serious problems like premature tooth loss and childhood periodontal disease.

Dental sealants are an important tool in preventing childhood caries (cavities) and tooth decay.  Especially when used in combination with other preventative measures, like biannual checkups and an excellent daily home care routine, sealants can bolster the mouth’s natural defenses, and keep smiles healthy.

How do sealants protect children’s teeth?

In general, dental sealants are used to protect molars from oral bacteria and harmful oral acids.  These larger, flatter teeth reside toward the back of the mouth and can be difficult to clean.  Molars mark the site of four out of five instances of tooth decay.  Decay-causing bacteria often inhabit the nooks and crannies (pits and fissures) found on the chewing surfaces of the molars.  These areas are extremely difficult to access with a regular toothbrush.

If the pediatric dentist evaluates a child to be at high risk for tooth decay, he or she may choose to coat additional teeth (for example, bicuspid teeth).  The sealant acts as a barrier, ensuring that food particles and oral bacteria cannot access vulnerable tooth enamel.

Dental sealants do not enhance the health of the teeth directly, and should not be used as a substitute for fluoride supplements (if the dentist has recommended them) or general oral care.  In general however, sealants are less costly, less uncomfortable, and more aesthetically pleasing than dental fillings.

How are sealants applied?

Though there are many different types of dental sealant, most are comprised of liquid plastic.  Initially, the pediatric dentist must thoroughly clean and prepare the molars, before painting sealant on the targeted teeth.  Some sealants are bright pink when wet and clear when dry.  This bright pink coloring enables the dentist to see that all pits and fissures have been thoroughly coated.

When every targeted tooth is coated to the dentist’s satisfaction, the sealant is either left to self-harden or exposed to blue spectrum natural light for several seconds (depending on the chemical composition of the specific brand).  This specialized light works to harden the sealant and cure the plastic.  The final result is a clear (or whitish) layer of thin, hard, durable sealant.

It should be noted that the “sealing” procedure is easily completed in one office visit, and is entirely painless.

When should sealants be applied?

Sealants are usually applied when the primary (baby) molars first emerge.  Depending on the oral habits of the child, the sealants may last for the life of the primary tooth, or need replacing several times.  Essentially, sealant durability depends on the oral habits of the individual child.

Pediatric dentists recommend that permanent molars be sealed as soon as they emerge.  In some cases, sealant can be applied before the permanent molar is full grown.

The health of the sealant must be monitored at biannual appointments.  If the seal begins to lift off, food particles may become trapped against the tooth enamel, actually causing tooth decay.

If you have questions or concerns about dental sealants, please contact your pediatric dentist.

Testimonials.

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Testimonials

Dr. Leong is an amazing dental professional. I've been seeing her for a number of years and she has always been effective, responsive, personable and caring. She managed my Invisalign process and did a great job from start to finish. She's very gentle so pain is never in the equation during my visits with her. She's also just a wonderful person. I consider her both my dentist and my friend. I would recommend her to anyone who's looking for a skilled dental professional.

Linda S. June 10, '17

I have been consistently happy with how Dr. Leong and her staff have cared for my teeth. AND, I've had A Lot of Work for Dr. Leong to do with my teeth! Shortly after my first cleanings, I had cavities to fill, then a molar cracked and I had to get a crown, which Dr. Leong did really well (better than my last dentist for sure!)... Given these positive experiences, I trusted Dr Leong to create Veneers for 8 of my upper front teeth, to totally transform my smile! I am very happy with my smile, get lots of compliments, and have confidence that the work will last me a long time (probably longer than my teeth would on their own... She not only did expert work to prepare my veneers and my teeth, but she also went above and beyond to make sure everything fit and felt right for me.

Matt Apr. 9, '15

Dr. Leong is hands down the best dentist I've ever had. She is extremely friendly and knowledgeable. She educated me about the right way to take care of my teeth without being pushy or judgmental. She explained everything she was doing very thoroughly so that I understood my own health better. She never made me feel rushed and she was never pushy trying to sell me dental work I didn't need, which has happened to me many times with other dentists. She and her staff were top notch.

My appointment was exactly on time and Anna at the front desk had already gotten my insurance information without me having to fill out anything. Everything was very well organized and we started my exam right away.

S. Wang Jan. 06, 15

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Wanda S. Leong, DDS 291 Geary Street, Suite 300 San Francisco, CA. 94102 Phone: 415-433-6825
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