When it comes to protecting the health of your teeth, preventive measures are typically preferred over restorative options. It is better to prevent a cavity than to have to fill one.
Your dentist has probably already advised you of proper at-home care. You may be flossing daily, brushing regularly, and even using an antibacterial mouth rinse. Still, these healthy habits alone may not be enough to prevent tooth decay. As a result, professional dental applications may also be needed to keep your mouth in great shape.
Here are a few preventive dental services that your dentist uses to protect the health of your teeth.
Fluoride treatments are used to make the teeth more resistant to decay and to help reverse early acid based damage. The teeth start to decay when they are exposed to acids within the oral cavity.
Many decay-causing acids are produced by bacteria within the mouth. The oral bacteria eat sugars from your meals, snacks, and drinks. Then, the bacteria release oral acids as a part of their digestive process.
The acids from the bacteria dissolve the tooth enamel, causing the release of important minerals that make up the crystalline tooth material. Fluoride can help attract the minerals back to the teeth and patch up the areas that were compromised by the acid exposure.
Fluoride combines with the attracted minerals to create a new, more acid-resistant tooth material. Thus, if fluoride is present in the mouth at the start of decay, permanent damage to a tooth may be avoided.
A professional fluoride treatment exposes the teeth to a concentrated form of fluoride to help keep the enamel healthy. The amount of fluoride in a professional treatment is much higher than that in over-the-counter products, such as toothpaste and fluoride rinses. However, the treatment is still quite safe because the fluoride is not ingested during the application.
When a dentist applies a fluoride treatment, the product is painted onto the teeth as a varnish, or it may be applied as a gel or foam. Fluoride gels and foams are usually placed in a mouth tray for the application.
The fluoride remains on the teeth for a few minutes before being rinsed from the mouth. During its time on the teeth, the fluoride is absorbed into the pores of the tooth enamel for long-lasting protection.
A dental sealant is a protective coating that is placed on the chewing surfaces of a tooth. The sealant, which is made of plastic, forms a barrier between the tooth and damaging substances, such as plaque and acids.
Dental sealants are often applied to the back teeth, where the chewing surfaces tend to be deeply grooved. The grooves are more susceptible to decay because plaque and food particles can settle into the depressed areas for prolonged contact with the teeth.
Before a sealant application, the dentist cleans the teeth that will be treated. After the teeth are cleaned, they are subsequently dried.
An acidic solution is then applied to reduce the smoothness of the tooth enamel. The plastic sealants bond more readily to roughened surfaces.
After the addition of the acidic solution, the teeth are rinsed with water and then dried. Next, the dentist applies the plastic sealant product as a liquid.
The liquid flows into the nooks and crannies of the chewing surfaces to decrease the depth of the depressions and form a protective seal. Once the sealants are in place, they can be cured with a specialized light to harden the application.
A dental sealant can last up to 10 years, protecting the teeth from damage. However, if a sealant becomes worn or chipped, it can be reapplied as necessary.
If you would like to receive a preventive treatment to help protect your teeth, schedule a consultation with Family Dental Practice.