AS PARENTS, our children’s well-being is always our top priority, and their dental health is a big part of that. It’s important to take good care of their baby teeth, of course, but what can we do to ensure that their permanent teeth get off to a good start?
A Child’s Risk Of Tooth Decay
Did you know that 40 percent of children will develop cavities by the time they reach kindergarten? Poor oral hygiene habits and sugary snacks can result in severe tooth decay in baby teeth, bad bacteria and genetics sometimes contribute to the problem as well.
As important as baby teeth are, it’s even more crucial to protect incoming adult teeth from decay, because those are the final set of teeth your child will have, and you want them to stay healthy and strong for a lifetime. One way of ensuring that a child has a lower risk for tooth decay is applying dental sealants to the permanent molars.
Dental Sealants Protect Hard-to-Reach Areas
Most of us have deep valleys and crevices between the peaks of our molars, these are called pits and fissures. Those can be very difficult spots to keep clean, and decay-causing bacteria thrive there. That’s where a dental sealant material comes in. Dental sealants serve as a barrier against bacteria and food particles in those deep molar crevices. It doesn’t make up for slacking off in the brushing and flossing department, but it does make adult teeth far more resilient against decay.
The ideal time for your child to get dental sealants is shortly after their adult molars erupt, which usually begins around age six. The sooner the sealants are in place, the less of an opportunity bacteria have of setting up shop in those hard-to-brush crevices. Normally first molars erupt around 6 years of age, and the second molars erupt around 12 years of age. At McOmie Family Dentistry we want to seal these teeth as soon as we see these teeth erupt fully. We don’t want to give an opportunity to get decay going in those grooves. The faster they are sealed the less likely they are to get decay.
Sealant Application Is Simple
Applying the sealant to teeth is simple, quick, non-invasive, and painless. First, the teeth are carefully brushed and cleaned. Then they are blown dry before being painted with a special gel. The white plastic coating is applied to the deeper grooves of the biting surface of the molars next. In order to cure or harden this coating, we use a special light. Sealants can last from five to ten years, and we make sure to keep an eye on them whenever your child comes in for a dental check-up.
Yes, you should have them placed on your children’s teeth at their next dental appointment. Routinely placed on permanent teeth, sealants have been shown to effectively prevent cavities for over 30 years.
A sealant is placed as a liquid in the groove of the tooth, called a fissure, the most common place to get a cavity. The sealant is cured in place with a curing light and then is ready to keep food particles and bacteria from getting in the grooves of the teeth. This is a fast, simple, painless procedure any child should be able to endure. I also recommend sealants for adult teeth without fillings.
Many of us had sealants as children, but after 30 years they need to be replaced. Insurance routinely covers 100 percent of the cost of sealants for children so there is no reason not to get them.
Sealants Are Not Only For Kids But Are Great For Adults
Insurance normally pays 100% on sealants for a child. That should tell us something about what insurance thinks of sealants. In other words, the insurance companies would rather pay for sealants than pay for a filling, or crown. Sealants work on adults just as well. However, insurance for some reason doesn’t cover sealants on adults. Probably because adults have better oral hygiene and don’t have as many new cavities as kids. Here at our office, our entire staff put sealants on their teeth when they have one wear out they always put it back in. It is simple, we see people with sealants just don’t have pit and fissure cavities.
Sealants Are Only One Part Of The Equation
Never forget that sealants are only part of the dental health equation for any child. It’s also crucial to encourage good daily brushing and flossing habits. A healthy diet–specifically, one in which sugary treats, sodas, and fruit juices are rare–will make it harder for tooth decay to encroach as well. And, of course, bringing your child in for regular dental appointments will enable us to spot problems early on and make sure everything is on track.