by Karen Kaiser, RDH
Unprotected skin can take on a red glow and develop painful blisters if it’s overexposed to the sun. As the sun turns up the ultraviolet light, the skin is damaged if it’s not shielded. Damaging solar radiation is cumulative, and sunburn (sometimes with blistering and swelling) is the skin’s reaction to overexposure. Thankfully, the skin can be protected with the liberal application of SPF sunscreens.
Just like skin, tooth structures can be damaged by the elements. When bacteria is not efficiently removed with good daily homecare, plaque and acids attack the tooth structure. Breakdown of the tooth may unfortunately result. Patients are advised to shield susceptible surfaces with a protective shield, because decay is the pits.
A shield is a deflection device that protects a person from attacks. Teeth that are not shielded may eventually need more protection from attack and hypersensitivity. Fluoride varnish can be applied to surfaces when bacteria invade. 3M ESPE Omni Preventive Care has a Cavity Shield varnish that is dosed in 5% neutral sodium fluoride and sweetened with beneficial xylitol. Cavity Shield is available in a palate-pleasing bubblegum flavor. A brush is supplied in the peel-back unit, and the fluoride should be mixed homogenously prior to placing it in the plastic dose cup.
Sultan Healthcare offers another 5% sodium fluoride. DuraShield comes with an applicator and the Ultrabrush (2.0 bristle), sized to easily maneuver crevices. DMG America has a 5% varnish called Kolorz Clearshield. This varnish is placed clear so patients do not leave the office with a yellow grin. Clearshield is watermelon flavored with xylitol for sweetening. This fluoride varnish is also available in a unit dose so cross-contamination is thwarted. Fluoride varnishes can be set in saliva so isolating the tooth completely is not as critical as when a dry field is needed. Once the varnish is set to a pliable-firm state, it releases fluoride ions for several hours after application.
Sealants are another type of preventive therapy. FluroShield sealant material by Dentsply Caulk works as a preventive shield that covers susceptible surfaces, protecting them from the onslaught of acid and bacterial attack. FluroShield goes into pits and fissures, and then must be light cured to complete the placement. The sealant material is available in a tooth shade to blend into the surface, or in opaque white that can be seen in the pits and fissures after placement. A kit of FluroShield contains the brushes needed to apply the sealant liquid, surface conditioning liquid, and a pad for merging and delivery of material.
Another way to outwardly protect patients during treatment is to have them wear masks designed to prevent bloody fluids, flying bits of calculus, or water spray from contact with exposed skin or eyes. Crosstex has a patient safety shield that also has a mask that fits over the patient’s nose (but not the mouth), and a clear shield of plastic for the face and eye area. The mask stays out of the treatment zone, which allows access yet conforms to the patient’s face, much like our full procedure mask.
When bacterial attacks are accompanied by sensitivity from exposure or decay, therapeutic varnishes and preventive sealants offer a shield of protection. Avoid the embarrassment of stopping a procedure to help patients remove debris from flying airborne particles. Shield patients with a mask designed for the task.
The author did not receive compensation for products mentioned.
Karen Kaiser, RDH, graduated from St. Louis’ Forest Park dental hygiene program in 1994 and currently practices at the Center for Contemporary Dentistry in Columbia, Ill. She has written several articles for RDH and other publications, sits on dental hygiene panels, and is an evaluator for Clinical Research Associates.