- What is a sealant and why are they necessary
- What causes tooth decay?
- How Do I Prevent Tooth Decay?
- What is periodontal (gum) disease?
- What are the signs of periodontal (gum) disease?
A sealant is a plastic material that is usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth—premolars and molars. This plastic resin bonds into the depressions and grooves (pits and fissures) of the chewing surfaces of back teeth. The sealant acts as a barrier, protecting enamel from plaque and acids.
Thorough brushing and flossing help remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth. But toothbrush bristles cannot reach all the way into the depressions and grooves to extract food and plaque. Sealants protect these vulnerable areas by "sealing out" plaque and food.
Tooth decay is a destruction of the tooth enamel. It occurs when foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches) such as milk, pop, raisins, cakes or candy are frequently left on the teeth. Bacteria that live in the mouth thrive on these foods, producing acids as a result. Over a period of time, these acids destroy tooth enamel, resulting in tooth decay.
You can help prevent tooth decay by following these tips:
- Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
- Clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaner.
- Eat nutritious and balanced meals and limit snacking.
- Check with your dentist about use of supplemental fluoride, which strengthens your teeth, and about use of dental sealants (a plastic protective coating) applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth to protect them from decay.
- Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral examination.
Periodontal (gum) disease is an infection of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. It is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. Because periodontal (gum) disease is usually painless, however, you may not know you have it.
Periodontal (gum) disease is caused by plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth. These bacteria create toxins that can damage the gums.
In the early stage of periodontal (gum) disease, called gingivitis, the gums can become red, swollen and bleed easily. At this stage, the disease is still reversible and can usually be eliminated by daily brushing and flossing.
In the more advanced stages of periodontal (gum) disease, called periodontitis, the gums and bone that support the teeth can become seriously damaged. The teeth can become loose, fall out or have to be removed by a dentist.
If you notice any of the following signs of periodontal (gum) disease, see your dentist immediately:
- gums that bleed when you brush your teeth
- red, swollen or tender gums
- gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- bad breath that doesn't go away
- pus between your teeth and gums
- loose teeth
- a change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- a change in the fit of partial dentures