Tooth decay has become increasingly prevalent in young children. 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 preventive measures, like biannual checkups and an excellent daily home care routine, sealants can bolster the mouth’s natural defenses, and keep smiles healthy.
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.
How are sealants applied?
Though there are many different types of dental sealant, most are comprised of liquid plastic. Initially, the dentist or hygienist must thoroughly clean and prepare the molars, before painting sealant on the targeted teeth. The final result is a clear (or whitish) layer of thin, hard, durable sealant.
It should be noted that the “sealing” procedure is easily completed in one office visit, and is entirely painless.
When should sealants be applied?
Dr. Rube generally recommends that permanent molars be sealed as soon as they emerge, which is around the age of six. In some cases, sealants can be applied before the permanent molars are fully erupted. The condition of the sealant will be monitored at biannual check-up appointments. If the sealant begins to lift off, they can be replaced easily.
If you have questions or concerns about dental sealants, please contact Dr. Rube at 914-636-5555