In the ongoing effort to keep your child’s teeth healthy and strong, a little bit of prevention can go a long way. Although proper brushing and flossing are both great ways to help prevent tooth decay, it may be difficult for your child to thoroughly clean all of the grooved or pitted surfaces of their teeth. This could lead to an increased occurrence of tooth decay. However, by applying sealants to their teeth, the tiny grooves and pits on the tooth surfaces are sealed and protected from cavity-causing plaque and acids – dramatically reducing the potential for tooth decay and subsequent cavities.
A dental sealant is made of a plastic material that is applied onto the grooves and pits of certain teeth – usually the back teeth and molars where tooth decay frequently occurs. By filling in these grooves and pits, the sealants help protect the surface enamel by keeping out food and plaque that can cause tooth decay. The sealants can be applied in one visit and can last on your child’s teeth for years if properly cared for. Your pediatric dentist will check the integrity of the sealants at your child’s bi-annual check-ups and may re-apply or repair if necessary.
The application of sealants is a quick procedure and shouldn’t cause any discomfort. In fact, your child can eat right after having sealants applied to their teeth. The application process is simple: The tooth is first cleaned and prepared. Next, the tooth is dried and the sealant is painted onto the tooth surface and allowed to harden (sometimes a special curing light is used to harden the sealant). It’s as easy as that! And the benefits of further protecting your child’s teeth from decay – especially throughout the most cavity-prone years – are invaluable.
Not all children will require sealants, and your pediatric dentist can evaluate your child’s teeth and risk of tooth decay to best decide if sealants are required. If sealants are recommended, however, you may want to check with your insurance company as the cost of sealants are covered under some policies, but there may be an age limit for your child or a limitation on which teeth (and how many) can be treated.
Although sealants are a great way to help reduce the risk of tooth decay, they should not take the place of proper brushing and flossing. Additionally, other important practices that help in the fight against tooth decay are to make healthy food choices and limit snacking. Keeping your child’s smile healthy is a priority and is important to their overall well-being. A healthy smile helps your child face the world with confidence and joy and helps them relate to others.
And as Dr. Cobb always says: good oral hygiene habits, combined with healthy food choices and bi-annual checkups, are the best ways to prevent tooth decay.