Posts for tag: sealants
Have you heard about dental sealants? These preventive treatments have been available for many decades, and more and more children are taking advantage of them. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that around 30% of kids from 6 to 11 years of age have had sealants applied to their molars (back teeth). Sealants are designed to reduce the incidence of cavities by filling in or eliminating the pits or crevices found in all molars, where decay-causing bacteria can hide and your brush can't reach. But do they really work?
Now, the research is in, and the answer is clear — YES!
Two major studies, each of which reviewed the results of thousands of patients over several years, recently came to the same conclusion: Dental sealants are effective at reducing cavities, and their benefits can last for four years (or more) after application. In general, the studies showed that kids who didn't get sealants were twice, three times, or even more likely to get cavities, compared to kids treated with sealants.
Sealants themselves are protective coatings made of plastic resins or glass-like materials. They are applied in liquid form, and then hardened by a special light. When “painted on” to the chewing surface of a molar, sealants fill in the tiny crevices, or “pits and fissures,” that are found there. Uneven tooth surfaces form a perfect breeding ground for the bacteria that cause tooth decay; worse yet, the bristles of a tooth brush can't usually reach them. That's what makes these areas highly susceptible to tooth decay.
Applying sealants is a quick and painless procedure that doesn't require any numbing shots or drilling. Many kids start getting sealants when the first permanent molars come in, around age 5 to 7; they may have more sealant treatments when additional molars emerge, between the ages of 11 and 14.
Sealants are recommended by the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, and have only a modest cost per tooth. On the other hand, having a cavity filled generally costs substantially more, and may result in more trouble (and expense) down the line — so sealants can make sense economically, as well as preventively. This is especially true for those at high risk for tooth decay.
If you have questions about dental sealants, please contact us or schedule a consultation. You can read more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sealants for Children,” and “Top 10 Oral Health Tips for Children.”
If you were to look closely at many of your teeth, you would notice deep, natural grooves in the enamel surface. Often referred to as “pits and fissures,” these are some of the most difficult places in the mouth to keep clean. Toothbrush bristles simply can't reach deep enough into them to be effective; what's more, their warm, moist environment is the perfect breeding ground for bacterial growth. Consequently, pits and fissures are the most common location for tooth decay.
Children are especially susceptible — pits and fissures account for 43% of tooth decay in patients between the ages of six and seven. This is because when children's teeth erupt (first become visible in the mouth) the new enamel is more permeable and less resistant to decay than older teeth. Until the enamel matures, the risk for decay remains high.
Fortunately, in recent years there has been a decrease in the occurrence of tooth decay among children. Better hygiene practices, fluoride products and fluoridated drinking water, better nutrition, and regular dental visits are all factors in this improvement. One development in particular provides children an extra layer of protection — the use of sealants on the tooth surfaces.
Sealants are protective coatings applied to tooth surfaces, especially in pits and fissures that act as a barrier between bacteria and the immature enamel. Although the degree and extent of sealant use varies across the profession, many dentists recommend sealant application in children for all permanent molars and many primary molars soon after eruption.
The accessibility of regular dental care also plays a factor — those who have no or limited access (and thus are at high risk for tooth decay) may benefit from sealants on all of their back teeth, while children with regular care access (low risk) may need only a few. In fact, some dentists only recommend sealants in low-risk children when tooth decay is already present and after first removing as much decay as possible.
The goal, of course, is to prevent decay, or reduce its effects, in children. Sealants can help, but only when coupled with other measures — and a good habit of oral hygiene.
If you would like more information on sealants for children's teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sealants for Children.”