Stephanie Skopek

Before a permanent tooth erupts into the mouth, it starts out as a number of lobes that join together leaving a series of grooves and pits on what becomes the chewing surface of your molars and premolars. We need these pointy, irregular surfaces on our back teeth to grind up hard, crunchy and chewy foods. However, that is also where bacteria like to live and when food gets stuck in these grooves, this bacteria produces acids in order to digest the Goldfish, crackers, raisins, fruit snacks and cookies left behind. These acids dissolve the mineral, or hard part of the enamel which leads to decalcification, weakened enamel and eventually cavities.  Our western diets contain a lot of acids; lemon water, coffee, tea, alcohol, flavored beverages and bubbly water which can amplify the problem by lowering the pH of the mouth.


Often these grooves are so small and deep, that this process can be going on for years or decades and we have no idea the extent. Fortunately, the bacteria trapped in these grooves as well as the weakened enamel begin to stain over time giving your dentist and hygienist the heads up that something is going on. If left alone, decay will eventually become evident but why would we wait for a hole to develop when we can guard against it in the first place?


That’s where dental sealants come in to play.  If we can properly clean and seal the grooves of teeth as soon as they erupt into the mouth, we can block the bacteria. The longer a tooth is in function in your mouth, the greater the chance that bacteria is living in the groove system where 80% of cavities occur. Why wouldn’t we have all of these teeth cleaned and sealed before this can happen? I’ve heard a lot of different reasons…insurance doesn’t pay for it….it’s only stain….it’s too expensive….wait and see what happens….


The insurance company that pays toward your dental benefits does not have your best interests in mind; they have their profits in mind. 


‘Only stain’ will turn into ‘only decay’. A sealant is a small fraction of the cost of a filling and if teeth are sealed within 6 months of erupting into the mouth, no tooth structure needs to be removed for sealant placement.


‘Wait’ and see the decay deepen and destroy healthy tooth structure?  Prevention is my Passion and waiting for teeth to decay is unhealthy and unpredictable. Decayed teeth are weaker and restoring a tooth with filling material commits it to a lifetime of restorative upkeep. The progression of decay is different for every patient depending on the resistance of their teeth, their diet, the pH of their mouth and buffering capacity of their saliva as well as the type and tenacity of the bacteria.


If we don’t seal a tooth within about 6 months after eruption into the mouth, we have no idea what is going on in the depths of the grooves so it’s imperative to clean out and inspect to the bottom of that groove to insure that no bacteria is getting sealed in. This almost always means cutting into the groove of the tooth to inspect for decay particularly if we see stain.


That is why, at Stephanie Skopek DDS, in North Barrington, at your 6 month recare appointments, we identify and prescribe sealants for all posterior teeth that have erupted and are accessible to place a sealant. 

If you’d like us to evaluate your teeth for sealants, please give us a call to schedule an appointment. 847-796-3199

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