According to some studies, by the time children reach 19, as many as 70 percent suffer from some form of tooth decay. Tooth decay, also known as cavities, can be the source of pain and, if left untreated, more serious infection. But dental sealants applied early in life can be an effective way to prevent cavities in children's teeth. Read on to learn more about dental sealants: what they are and how they work, who should receive them, when to get them, and more.
What are dental sealants?
The best way to describe sealants are as thin plastic coatings applied to the chewing surfaces of the teeth. Most sealants are applied to the back teeth, where chewing surfaces tend to be more uneven, encouraging bacteria growth.
A dentist first cleans and dries the tooth. Then, a solution is applied to the tooth that adds texture to it, so the sealant can adhere better. The sealant is painted on in a thin layer and hardens within a few seconds.
Who should receive sealants and when?
Your dentist should evaluate your children to see if they are candidates for sealants. In the U.S. alone, between 45 million and 55 million sealants are applied each year.
The permanent molars of children should be sealed as soon as they come in. This usually occurs in two sets--between ages 5 and 7 and again between ages 11 and 14. Other teeth can be sealed at the dentist's discretion. Each sealant can cost around $40, but most dental insurance policies cover them 100 percent.
Sealants are most recommended for children, but older people who have experienced recurring issues with tooth decay may also benefit from dental sealants.
Once a sealant is applied, it can last a decade if properly maintained. Just as individuals without sealants should take care of their teeth, people with dental sealants should brush and floss daily; eat a diet low in sugar and high in whole, healthy foods; and schedule regular dentist appointments. A dentist, like Andersen Kevin Dr Inc, can check to make sure the sealant has not chipped off or worn away and can add another layer if needed.
What are some of the benefits of dental sealants?
- It's economical: It typically costs less to have a tooth sealed than it does to have a cavity filled.
- It's fail-proof: Even if a sealant is applied over a small cavity, it doesn't pose a problem because the decay, sealed off from food and germ supply, can't spread.
- It encourages healthy adult teeth: Keeping baby teeth healthy so they don't fall out early ensures your child's mouth will have enough room for mature teeth.