Tooth decay has become increasingly prevalent in preschoolers. Not only is tooth decay unpleasant and painful, it can also lead to more serious problems like premature tooth loss and childhood periodontal disease.
Dental sealants are an important tool in preventing childhood caries (cavities) and tooth decay. Especially when used in combination with other preventative measures, like biannual checkups and an excellent daily home care routine, sealants can bolster the mouth’s natural defenses, and keep smiles healthy.
Reasons for sealants:
- Children and teenagers – As soon as the six-year molars (the first permanent back teeth) appear or any time throughout the cavity prone years of 6-16.
How do sealants protect children’s teeth?
In general, dental sealants are used to protect molars from oral bacteria and harmful oral acids. These larger, flatter teeth reside toward the back of the mouth and can be difficult to clean. Molars mark the site of four out of five instances of tooth decay. Decay-causing bacteria often inhabit the nooks and crannies (pits and fissures) found on the chewing surfaces of the molars. These areas are extremely difficult to access with a regular toothbrush.
If the dentist evaluates a child to be at high risk for tooth decay, he or she may choose to coat additional teeth (for example, bicuspid teeth). The sealant acts as a barrier, ensuring that food particles and oral bacteria cannot access vulnerable tooth enamel.
Dental sealants do not enhance the health of the teeth directly, and should not be used as a substitute for fluoride supplements (if the dentist has recommended them) or general oral care. In general however, sealants are less costly, less uncomfortable, and more aesthetically pleasing than dental fillings.
What do sealants involve?
Sealants are easily applied by your dentist or dental hygienist and the process takes only a couple of minutes per tooth.
The teeth to be sealed are thoroughly cleaned and then surrounded with cotton to keep the area dry. A special solution is applied to the enamel surface to help the sealant bond to the teeth. The teeth are then rinsed and dried. Sealant material is carefully painted onto the enamel surface to cover the deep grooves or depressions. Depending on the type of sealant used, the material will either harden automatically or with a special curing light.
Proper home care, a balanced diet, and regular dental visits will aid in the life of your new sealants.
When should sealants be applied?
Sealants are usually applied when the primary (baby) molars first emerge. Depending on the oral habits of the child, the sealants may last for the life of the primary tooth, or need replacing several times. Essentially, sealant durability depends on the oral habits of the individual child.
Dentists recommend that permanent molars be sealed as soon as they emerge. In some cases, sealant can be applied before the permanent molar is full grown.
The health of the sealant must be monitored at biannual appointments. If the seal begins to lift off, food particles may become trapped against the tooth enamel, actually causing tooth decay.
If you have questions or concerns about dental sealants, please contact us.