If you’re a parent, then you know just how important it is that your child brushes and flosses regularly to prevent tooth decay and cavities. Let’s face it; it’s not easy to clean the tiny nooks and crannies inside of mouths — especially the mouths of young kids.
The deep grooves in back teeth are highly susceptible to decay that forms when food debris become trapped inside of them. Regular brushing can go a long way, but even the most dedicated brusher can have a hard time cleaning the deep chewing surfaces of teeth effectively.
For this reason, many dentists recommend sealants as an added layer of protection against decay. With the pits of teeth protected by sealants, bacteria have no place to grow, which further reduces the risk of experiencing tooth decay.
What Are Dental Sealants?
A sealant is a thin, clear, plastic coating that adheres to the chewing surfaces of the molars and premolars. The sealant protects vulnerable, cavity-prone areas by “sealing out” food and plaque. In fact, dental sealants can lower the risk of tooth decay in molars by 80%.
How Are Sealants Applied?
Getting dental sealants is quick and painless. In many cases, sealants can be applied during a routine cleaning or exam. The process involves cleaning and drying the child’s tooth; roughening the tooth’s surface so that the sealant adheres effectively; and painting the sealant material onto the surface of the tooth. The process is complete once the dentist hardens the sealant using a special blue light. Once applied, a smooth surface covers the fissured area of the tooth, preventing bacteria from penetrating the tooth and making it easier to clean.
With good oral hygiene habits — including daily at-home care — a child’s dental sealants can last many years. Your dentist can evaluate the condition of your child’s sealants at regular check-ups and replace them as needed.
Is My Child a Candidate for Sealants?
Typically, it is best to seal teeth as soon as they erupt in the mouth, usually around 6 to 12 years of age. For this reason, children and teenagers are the best candidates for sealants. Applying sealants early can save your child from discomfort, cavities and the need for more costly, extensive treatment down the road.
Baby molars and permanent molars can be sealed, and even adults at high risk for decay can benefit from sealants, too. Your dentist can confirm whether sealants are the right option for you.
Maintaining Your Oral Health Starts at Home
Protecting your teeth with dental sealants is a highly effective way to prevent cavities from forming, but it is not a substitute for daily brushing and flossing. Parents should continue to practice good oral hygiene habits with their kids at home. Brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, seeing the dentist for routine cleanings and limiting frequent snacking are all important ways to keep cavities at bay.
To learn more about dental sealants and other helpful ways to prevent cavities, schedule a visit with McLean DDS today.