Let’s start with the basics. There is one main rule in dentistry. If you can keep it clean, you can keep it. Brushing and especially flossing go a long way in the prevention of cavities and gum disease, but what happens if a tooth is not cleanable? You must make it cleanable or the inevitable cavity and/or gum disease will ravage the tooth. There is a design flaw in teeth, grooves on the tops of back molars that do not allow for the tooth to be cleaned naturally or with a brush. These un-cleanable areas were formed during the development of the tooth and trap food and bacteria deep inside them. The grooves are what a dentist seals with a dental sealant. Dental Sealants are thin, plastic coatings that are applied to the grooves on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth to protect them from tooth decay. This makes them more cleanable naturally and with a brush. Food is less likely to get chewed down in to them. You need three things to develop a cavity: Tooth structure, bacteria, and sugar. If you can prevent these three things from coming together and having a party, you can prevent cavities. This is the basic premise of sealants, preventing the party.

Pros of Sealants:

  1. Prevent food and bacteria from getting trapped in the grooves of a tooth.
  2. Make the tooth more cleanable.
  3. Relativelyinexpensive.
  4. No anesthetic required.
  5. No tooth removal required.
  6. Canbe placed by dentist or hygienist.

Cons of Sealants:

  1. Onlylast 1-3 years on average. Somedon’t even make it to the car.
  2. Ifthere is decay in a tooth, the sealants cover it up.
  3. Verydifficult to do in a sterile environment.
  4. Itis much more difficult to monitor decay growth.
  5. Decay can become catastrophic before detected.

Perhaps you are familiar with sealants and maybe you are not a believer. But you are probably a big believer in eliminating the decay in a tooth prior to placing any sort of dental restoration. A familiar, proven procedure of choice on a young, groovy tooth is a conservative white composite filling when decay is detected.

Pros of white composite fillings:

  1. Preventsfood and bacteria from getting trapped in the grooves of a tooth.
  2. Makesthe tooth more cleanable.
  3. Ensuresthere is no decay in the grooves before you cover them up.
  4. Much more durable and longer lasting, up to 10 times as long.
  5. Lessexpensive in the long run.

Cons of white composite fillings:

  1. Initiallymore expensive in the short term.
  2. Moretechnique sensitive (requiring strict isolation with a RUBBER DAM).
  3. Often requires anesthetic and can only be done by a dentist.
  4. Asmall amount of tooth structure is removed.
  5. Theytake longer, often requiring multiple appointments to complete a mouth.

Shamblott Family Dentistry specializes in adult braces and family dentistry, and is located in Minneapolis, MN. Visit them online at www.shamblottfamilydentistry.com.