Adult molar teeth have biting grooves (fissures) which can be naturally occurring defects in teeth that can trap food, especially the gooey sweet stuff that kids tend to eat. (Note the picture of a cross section of a fissure in a molar with a tooth brush bristle above it). The side surfaces of molars can have pits that can also trap food. Pit and fissure defects can many times turn into cavities requiring fillings to repair the defects.

Traditionally, dentists use a sharp explorer to search for spots where the explorer “sticks”. These “sticks” indicate an area that is decayed, requiring a filling. As time has gone on, however, the stick test is less dependable because the outside surface of teeth (enamel) has become harder due to an increased fluoride in water and toothpaste. Studies have shown that explorers fail to detect tooth decay in 80% of actual pit and fissure tooth decay.

For this reason, at Zoerhof dentistry we use a “diagnodent”, which uses laser technology to measure bacterial activity in teeth. This technology, along with a thorough clinical exam, can diagnose pit and fissure tooth decay early in the process, resulting in less invasive treatment and smaller fillings.

If, after a thorough clinical exam, no pit and fissure tooth decay is detected, we may consider placing sealants on the teeth. A sealant is a viscous, flowable resin material (similar to filling material) that seals the naturally occurring defects in teeth, preventing tooth decay.

Sealants have been shown in numerous studies to be an extremely cost effective preventive measure to prevent pit and fissure tooth decay. Most insurances will cover sealants. At Zoerhof dentistry we will discuss sealants with parents and partner with them to promote their childrens’ oral health.

fissure magnified view

Even a single toothbrush bristel is too large to reach inside a fissure (magnified).

molar chewing surface before sealant

Chewing surface of a molar before sealant is applied.