You may already be aware that daily brushing and flossing are the most important weapons against the formation of plaque, the primary cause of cavities. In addition to your regular routine of brushing and flossing, your dentist can apply a coat of plastic material – called a sealant – on the top or biting surfaces of your back teeth. This plastic coating creates a barrier on your teeth and seals out the decay-causing bacteria that live in plaque.
What is plaque and why does it cause cavities?
The food and liquids you eat and drink combine with bacteria to produce a sticky film called plaque. Plaque attaches on and in between teeth, where it starts to eat away at the tooth enamel. If plaque is not removed regularly by brushing and flossing your teeth, it can produce acids that will create pits or holes (cavities) in the tooth. This is tooth decay.
How can sealants help prevent cavities?
Applying a thin plastic coating to your teeth makes it harder for the plaque to stick to the tiny groves on the biting surfaces of the back teeth – protecting the tooth surface and reducing the risk of forming cavities.
Is it difficult to apply sealants?
No. Sealant placement is quick, simple and painless. Most often, sealants will last for several years. At regular check-up visits, your dentist or dental hygienist will check to see that sealants are still in place.
Who should get sealants?
Sealants are most effective in reducing cavities in children with newly formed permanent teeth. In fact, all children should have their molars (back teeth) evaluated for sealants soon after they erupt. For most children, this occurs approximately at ages 6 and 12. Sealants can also be useful in cutting down formation of decay in adult teeth, as well. An application of sealants is a preventative measure to keep teeth healthy. It is an effective way to reduce the need for fillings and more expensive treatments that may be required to repair the damage from cavities, so sealants can save you money. Ask your dentist whether sealants would be an appropriate treatment for you and your children to help prevent tooth decay.
The dental hygienist uses a scaler to get rid of plaque and tartar around the gum line, as well as in between the teeth. You’ll hear scraping, but this is normal! The more tartar there is in your mouth, the more time is needed to scrape a particular spot.
We brush and floss to stop plaque from building up and hardening into tartar. Once you have tartar, you can only remove it at the dentist’s office. So if this is your least favourite part of the teeth cleaning process, the lesson is to brush and floss more often!
A space maintainer is an appliance that is custom-made by a dentist in acrylic or metal material. It can be either removable or cemented in a child’s mouth. Its purpose is to keep the space open to allow the permanent tooth to erupt and come into place. Baby teeth are important to the development of the teeth, jaw bones and muscles and help to guide permanent teeth into position when the baby teeth are lost. If a space is not maintained, then teeth can shift into the open space and orthodontic treatment may be required. Not every child who loses a baby tooth early or to dental decay requires a space maintainer; however, a professional consultation with your dentist or orthodontist should be conducted to determine if using a space maintainer is needed.
Types of Space Maintainers
There are two types of space maintainers for children, removable and fixed.
- Removable – removable space maintainers are similar to orthodontic appliances and are usually made of acrylic. In some cases, an artificial tooth may be used to fill a space that must remain open for the unerupted tooth.
- Fixed – there are four different kinds of fixed space maintainers: unilateral, crown and loop, distal shoe and lingual.
Once the space maintainer is made by the dentist, it may take the child a few days to get use to wearing the appliance whether it is removable or fixed. The dentist should review with the child and parent the proper ways to clean the space maintainer thoroughly in order to keep the gum tissue healthy and free of dental plaque. Proper instruction for tooth brushing and flossing should be considered for improved oral hygiene.
If the space maintainer is fixed, it will be important to avoid chewy and sugary foods, and gum or candy, which may loosen or get caught on the appliance. The child should be seen by the dentist on a regular basis to monitor the progress of treatment.