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Back teeth (also called molars) have deep grooves on their chewing surface. Those deep grooves are where food and bacteria can become trapped and then cause cavities. It’s one of the most common places where I have to place fillings. A sealant is a coating that covers those deep grooves to prevent food and bacteria from getting into those deep crevices.
There still are “valleys” but it’s a lot easier to keep clean. Sealants are really easy, painless, and fast. Each ones takes about a minute and you don’t have to be numb. We typically like to do them when a child’s 1st molars or 6-year molars comes in around age 6 and then again around age 12 when their 2nd molars or 12-year molars come in.
In special circumstances we may even seal baby teeth if they are really deep and we see signs they aren’t keeping them clean. We may also see adult premolar teeth if those are really deep too. It’s a case by case basis.
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Cleanings are important because no one is perfect. We all miss places when we brush or floss – and especially if we’re NOT brushing or flossing as frequently as we should or with the wrong technique. There are just too many tiny little crevices for us to be perfect.
When that film (called plaque) from food and bacteria stays in the same place for too long, it becomes hardened and turns into tartar. This hardened mineralized material cannot be removed with a toothbrush or floss. It has to be removed by a dental professional.
A cleaning is where that tart is mechanically removed from your teeth and it disrupts the bacteria to help prevent gum disease.
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Gum disease occurs when teeth and/or gums are not properly cleaned. Bacteria lives in the film (plaque) and buildup (tartar or calculus) that sits around the teeth and gums. Your body will try to fight off the bacteria but in doing so sets off an inflammatory process. This process then causes the bone that supports your teeth to resorb away. Gum disease (periodontal disease) is the number one cause of tooth loss. This happens when there is not enough bone to support the teeth, and the area can become infected. That being said, gum disease is a lot like high blood pressure – a lot of people do not know they have it and it’s not painful.
To help stop or slow down this process, we need to perform periodontal therapy. For those with gum disease (periodontal disease), there are often deep pockets that surround the teeth that are filled with bacteria, film, and buildup. During therapy, the gums are numbed for your comfort and the bacteria is disturbed and the buildup is removed. At this point, it’s a lot easier for you to keep your teeth and gums clean and meticulous oral hygiene is important. We typically like to see you a bit more frequently (every 3 months) to make sure progress is being made.
While a bulk of the work is completed initially, periodontal therapy continues for the rest of your life because you will always be more prone to this chronic bacterial infection.
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