We all know the importance of brushing and flossing regularly to help prevent cavities and to protect our teeth. There are a few things you probably haven’t heard of, or given much consideration to, that you can do to protect your children’s mouth health.
According to many dentists teeth sealants are one of the most-recommended, yet most under-used treatments to prevent tooth decay. Based off studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) only 20 percent of children at poverty level and only 40 percent of kids from higher-income homes actually receive recommended sealants. Recent studies have even shown that boys in higher-income homes have the highest occurrence of tooth decay.
What is a Sealant?
Dental sealants are formed when a plastic-like liquid is dripped onto the biting surface of a tooth – usually the back teeth (premolars and molars) – to prevent tooth decay. The liquid coating quickly settles into the depressions and grooves of the teeth and is set with an ultraviolet light, which then forms a protective shield over the enamel of each tooth.
Can’t I Just Brush?
While thorough brushing and flossing can remove particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of the teeth, it is more difficult to clean all the pits and grooves in the teeth that typically trap food and foster bacteria.
Some dentists claim that when combined with daily brushing (with fluoridated toothpaste), a healthy diet and visiting the dentist twice a year to check the sealants bond on the tooth, properly installed sealants are 100-percent effective in preventing cavities.
Preparing and Preventing is Cheaper Than Repairing
While the cost of sealants for children may vary from dentist to dentist, they are relatively inexpensive; sealants cost less than fixing cavities and are often times covered by your dental insurance company.
Research by the American Dental Association has shown that when applied to the biting surfaces of 6-year old molars, sealants can reduce cavities by up to 80 percent immediately – and up to 60 percent for four years or more.
However, with proper care and regular check-ups to make sure they are not chipped or worn away, sealants can last up to 10 years. Which means giving your child sealants may mean the difference between a lifetime of healthy teeth and the pain and health risks that are associated with tooth decay.
When Should My Child Get Them?
Children should get sealants on their permanent molars and premolars as soon as their teeth come in. This will allow the sealants to protect the teeth through the “prime-time” cavity years of ages 6 to 14.
Does My Child Really Need Them?
While not all children may need sealants parents should ask their pediatric dentist on their next visit if it’s right for their child. Take this fun, easy quiz by the ADA for more information on dental sealants.