Fight decay with dental sealants

  • Published
  • By Maj. Doron Bresler
  • 1st Special Operations Dental Squadron
 You may wonder: "I brush and floss my teeth at least three times a day, avoid sugary food and snacks, see a dentist regularly, and drink fluoridated water instead of soda. But, I still get cavities, why?"

The pits and grooves on the chewing surfaces of teeth need to be protected. When food is chewed, it can become trapped in these pits and fissures, especially if the fissures are thin and deep. Decay develops in those grooves because toothbrush bristles are too large to reach into these areas to remove the food and bacteria.

So how can decay in pits and fissures be prevented? By using dental sealants. A sealant is a clear or shaded plastic coating that is "painted" on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth and locks out harmful bacteria and food from the pits and fissures. They're applied by using a small brush to paint a clear or white liquid on the tooth. Once applied, a special light is usually used to help harden the coating. Sealants are checked at during annual exams to be sure they haven't chipped or fallen off.

Sealants can save patients from having dental treatment such as fillings, crowns, root canals, extractions or dentures.
The 1994 Tri-Service Comprehensive Oral Health Survey of Active-Duty personnel discovered that almost half of military dental patients 26 years of age or younger needed dental sealants. Twenty-five percent of the patients in the study had new decay in the pits and fissures of their teeth that could have been prevented by using sealants.

Just as in vehicle maintenance where several tools are needed to check an engine, fighting decay requires using more than just one tool. At your next exam, ask your dentist if your teeth might benefit from dental sealants.

The 1st Special Operations Dental Squadron is pleased to introduce the February 2009 National Children's Dental Health Month program. This month-long national health observance brings together dedicated dental professionals, health care providers and others to promote the benefits of good oral health to children, adults, caregivers, teachers and many others. Look for dental activities posted on the base marquee and in the base paper.