How Dental Sealants Prevent Cavities in Children
In my family practice, the end of the summer is a busy time for back-to-school dental exams. I see parents who are more well informed about their children’s dental care than ever before. They help their children develop healthy daily routines of brushing and flossing and provide a healthy diet. But many are looking for additional ways to prevent cavities. One tool available is the dental sealant.
What is a dental sealant?
A dental sealant is a thin film of plastic that is applied to the chewing surface of teeth. It is used most frequently to prevent cavities in children’s back teeth. A dental sealant prevents bacteria from getting into the grooves on the tooth where ninety percent of tooth decay starts.
How do sealants work?
Sealants are usually placed on children’s newly erupted permanent teeth. Food particles and bacteria cannot be easily cleaned out of the narrow pits and grooves of these teeth, where most cavities occur. Thorough brushing and flossing help remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth. But toothbrush bristles cannot reach all the way into the depressions and grooves to extract food and plaque. Sealants protect these vulnerable areas by “sealing out” plaque and food.
What is involved in applying a dental sealant?
Since it takes only a few minutes for your dentist to seal a tooth, the overall time depends on how many teeth need to be sealed. After the teeth have been cleaned, a very thin layer of the sealant coating is “painted” onto the enamel, where it bonds directly and hardens. The clear or white coating blends easily with the natural tooth. The protection from a sealant usually lasts for several years. Your dentist will check the condition of the sealants as part of a regular dental exam. If necessary, sealants can be reapplied.
The good news? Pediatric dentists recommend dental sealants for protecting your child’s teeth against cavities. With good family oral health practices and regular dental exams, sealants are an extremely effective way to prevent cavities.
When you bring your kids for their back-to-school dental checkups, ask about the benefits of sealants.
Remember, healthy teeth make a healthy smile!
Dr. Nishan Halim
Nishan Halim, DMD specializes in adult and pediatric dentistry with restorative and cosmetic procedures, as well as preventive dentistry, in his Capitol Hill, Washington DC neighborhood dental center. Contact the office to schedule an appointment for your child to discuss the benefits of dental sealants.