Sealing Out Tooth Decay
Tooth decay is a dental issue that affects millions of people every year, especially school aged children. According to the CDC, 1 out of 5 (about 20%) of children aged 5 to 11 years old have at least one untreated decayed tooth. Since cavities are increasingly common, parents and guardians should pay special attention to their children’s diets and dental habits. If left untreated, tooth decay can lead to pain, and serious complications such as premature tooth loss and the need for root canal therapy.
Brushing twice a day, flossing at least once a day, and avoiding too much sugar is crucial to preventing cavities. However, sometimes this is not enough to protect teeth, especially if a patient has overcrowded teeth or is genetically susceptible to cavities.
Fortunately, dental sealants offer an additional protective measure that adults can utilize to help maintain their children’s oral health. When dental sealants are used in combination with other preventative measures, like routine dental check-ups and thorough at-home care, preventing tooth decay becomes a much more achievable goal.
How Do Dental Sealants Work
Dental sealants are essentially thin layers of protective material that are painted onto the chewing surfaces of teeth. This layer coats the rough edges, filling in grooves and divots and smoothing them out, making it more difficult for debris to get stuck and sit on the teeth, which causes decay.
Usually, dental sealants are used to protect molars. Molars are the teeth at the back of the mouth, with large chewing surfaces that are often difficult to clean. Molars are the teeth that are most often impacted by tooth decay, because food easily gets caught on the pits and fissures.
Even a regular toothbrush can fail to remove all the food debris from a molar, leaving it susceptible to decay. However, dental sealants are not exclusively used on molars, and can be used to protect other teeth, as well, especially if a child is cavity prone.
It should be noted that dental sealants do not enhance the health of teeth, and do not act as a substitute for fluoride treatments, supplements, or proper dental care.
The Application Process
Dental sealants are painted onto teeth, hardening into a protective layer after being cured with a special light (though there are some types that self-harden). The application process is usually completed in one visit and entirely painless.
First, the pediatric dentist will thoroughly clean the teeth, then apply an acid etchant (which helps the sealant bond to the teeth). After the etchant sits for a few seconds, the dentist will rinse the teeth thoroughly and dry them before painting the sealant material onto the targeted areas. The final result is barely noticeable, since the sealant will appear clear or white in color.
When to Apply Sealants
Dental sealants can be and are often applied when primary (baby) molars first emerge. Your pediatric dentist may recommend sealants based on your child’s dental health history and oral habits. Sealants are harmless and can last several years before they need to be reapplied, depending on how well they are taken care of and what your child’s dental care and habits are like.
If a sealant begins to lift off a tooth, it is important to fix the sealant immediately, since food particles may become trapped between the sealant and the tooth enamel, actually causing decay. This is why sealants are monitored closely and always evaluated during dental visits.
Your Kids Dentist in Chino, CA
If you think your child may benefit from sealants and you would like to learn more about them, we invite you to contact us at Kids Dental Specialists today. Our team is always here to help ensure your child’s smile stays healthy and bright, and that means we will work to design the ideal dental treatment plan specific to their needs.
Contact our dental office today when you call (909) 591-0077.