Gum recession is a process where the gums shrink back from the enamel margins of the teeth, exposing parts of the roots of the teeth. This process is common in most people aged over 35 and happens very slowly over the course of time. It is the result of vigorous and incorrect tooth brushing, habitual clenching or grinding of the teeth, orthodontic treatment many years previously, or gum disease. Smoking and pan chewing may make it worse and increase the chances of root decay and staining.
These exposed parts of the teeth may sometimes be very sensitive to heat, cold or sweet. Because the roots of the teeth are comprised of dentine that is more porous than enamel and are not covered with a protective layer of enamel, the root surfaces are more prone to decay as a result of the acid attack from sugars and plaque. They also tend to discolour and become stained more rapidly. The saying “long in the tooth” comes from gum shrinkage or recession, making the teeth appear longer.
Sealants are a safe and painless way of protecting your teeth from decay. A sealant is a protective plastic coating, which is applied to the biting surfaces of the back teeth. The sealant forms a hard shield that keeps food and bacteria from getting into the tiny grooves in the teeth and causing decay.
Sealants are only applied to the back teeth – the molars and premolars. These are the teeth that have ‘pits’ (small hollows) and ‘fissures’ (grooves) on their biting surfaces. Your dental team will tell you which teeth should be sealed after they have examined them and checked whether the fissures are deep enough for sealing to help. Some teeth naturally have deep grooves which will need to be sealed; others have shallow ones which will not need sealing.