Protecting children’s teeth, one sealant at a time

Valentine’s Day is approaching and with it comes chocolates, candy hearts and other sweet surprises, making February the perfect time to acknowledge National Children’s Dental Health Month.

Try as they might, it is often hard for children to reach every nook and cranny of their mouths while brushing and flossing. This allows food and cavity-causing bacteria to hide in between their teeth, especially their molars, as they are rough and uneven. In order to aid in the prevention of cavities in children, a thin protective coating called a sealant can be applied to the chewing surface of your child’s molars.

Dental sealants for a child are especially recommended, as well as for teenagers who are at a higher risk of tooth decay, particularly in their new adult molar teeth.

Since the 1960s dentists have been using sealants to aid in prevention of cavities and have only continued to improve the process over the years.

While they are no replacement for brushing and flossing, dental sealants offer protective coverage to keep plaque and food from building up in the hard to reach places. By sealing the pits and fissures in their teeth, sealants help prevent more serious oral health issues such as cavities, root canals or the need for crowns.

The process of applying a sealant is simple and completely painless:

First the teeth to be sealed are thoroughly cleaned.

Each tooth is then dried and cotton rolls or other absorbing materials are placed around the tooth to keep it dry while the sealant is applied.

An etching material is placed on the chewing surfaces of the teeth to roughen them up, allowing the sealant to bond to the teeth.

The teeth are then rinsed and dried once again.

Finally, the sealant is painted onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to the tooth and is hardened using a special curing light.

According to the Centers for Disease Control in 2016, only 43 percent of children ages 6-11 have sealants. The CDC report states that dental sealants prevent 80 percent of cavities for two years after application. They also continue to protect against 50 percent of cavities for up to four years.

Dental sealants can offer protection against cavities for as long as five to 10 years. Your dentist will check the condition and care of dental sealants during regular annual or semi-annual dental check-ups. Over time, dental sealants can become worn or chipped and would need to be assessed.

Thankfully, one of the greatest benefits of dental sealants is that should they become worn or chipped, the problem can be addressed quite easily. Your dentist will simply add more sealant, as necessary, to ensure proper protection against cavities and tooth decay.

The best way to ensure proper dental health in your child is to stop the decay before it can even begin. One dental appointment to apply sealants can not only prevent further restorative appointments, but allow both you and your child peace of mind in your day to day lives knowing their developing teeth stay safe from their biggest enemy — cavities!