The first line of defense in stopping cavities from forming is brushing and flossing your teeth. Unfortunately, these are not foolproof. Many people do not floss regularly or brush their teeth long enough to fully remove the bacteria that causes plaque and, eventually, cavities. Also, some people have teeth that are more vulnerable to cavities. Children in particular are more haphazard in their dental practices. They often have problems reaching and cleaning their molars, and the the rough surface of molars provides many crevices in which bacteria hide. For these people dental sealants can be a great solution.
What Are Dental Sealants?
A sealant is a thin coating made of plastic that, when painted on molars, adheres to the surface there, sealing off that space from the attack of bacteria. Bacteria cannot then colonize those teeth, feed off the food particles in your mouth, and produce acid byproducts that cause cavities. They can only settle on your front teeth where the plaque they produce is more visible and can more easily be brushed away.
Dental sealants are effective at reducing cavities. In 2016 the Centers for Disease Control reported that school aged children without sealants are far more prone to cavities – they have nearly three times as many cavities as children with sealants do. Research has shown that the use of dental sealants could prevent up to 80 percent of cavities in school aged children.
When Should Children Get Sealants?
In terms of dental development, children’s first permanent molars break through the surface of the gums between the ages of 5 and 7, and the second permanent molars come between the ages of 11 and 14. The earlier children get sealants after those teeth have come in, the more effective they are in preventing cavities.
Sometimes dentists recommend that children have sealants applied to their baby teeth, particularly if those molars are very pitted or grooved. Adults already have their permanent teeth, so the dentist can apply sealants any time. Sealants can be applied over areas with early evidence of decay. The clear coating doesn’t prevent the dentist from monitoring the health of the tooth, and sealants last up to 10 years. When sealants wear away, more sealant material can be reapplied.
How Are Sealants Applied?
Your dentist will clean the teeth that will be sealed thoroughly, then dry them. After this he will apply a solution that will make the surface of the tooth rougher so that the sealant will adhere better. Then the tooth is rinsed and dried again, and the liquid sealant is applied. It hardens within a few seconds, and that is all there is to it! It’s not painful, and the process only lasts a few minutes.
If you think that your teeth or your children’s teeth would benefit from dental sealants, talk to your dentist at your next appointment. We use our teeth everyday at every meal, and teeth that never have cavities are teeth that are stronger and more likely to last a lifetime.