In 2013, dental hygiene celebrated its 100th anniversary. Before this, the only kind of dentistry that existed was restoring what was already broken. Since the beginning of dental hygiene, the world has seen a shift in thinking in all aspects of life from a restorative to a preventive mindset. There are several preventive measures in dentistry now from fluoride treatments to preventive dental cleanings.
Ultimately the goal of preventive dentistry is to stay healthy and keep the teeth you have for life! This includes preventing cavities or tooth decay. There are 2 common areas for tooth decay: the grooves of the teeth and in between the teeth. In between the teeth cavities are most easily prevented through daily flossing and fluoride use. The grooves of the teeth are a little trickier though! This picture shows the groove of a tooth and a toothbrush bristle – you can see that the bristle is too small to clean out the entire groove. This is where sealants and preventive restorations come in. Below is a description of each.
Sealants are the first line of defense to prevent cavities in the pits and grooves of teeth. In a nutshell, sealant material is similar to the white filling material, but when a sealant is placed no tooth structure is drilled away. Instead, an etch is used to prepare the tooth for the sealant. The material fills in the grooves and pits of teeth so that bacteria cannot invade these areas. Overtime sealants do breakdown, and sometimes can pop out with very sticky foods, and may need to be replaced.
Preventive Resin Restoration (PRR):
Preventive restorations are the next step up from a sealant. These restorations are recommended when there are stains in the pits of teeth or the beginnings of decay. These restorations are in between a sealant and a filling. Some tooth structure is drilled away, but not as much as would be for a filling. Sometimes these preventive restorations are recommended when there has been tooth breakdown around a sealant (which can happen). Preventive restorations can help prevent the need for a larger filling down the road.