Brush and floss. Brush and floss. That’s what we’re told from the time we’re old enough to take care of our teeth on our own. Get all those chocolate crumbs, bits of broccoli, and other food out of your teeth. Keep the plaque to a minimum and be sure not to brush too hard of you’ll wear down the enamel.
If you’re a mom or dad, you know how difficult it is to keep on top of brushing with your little ones, especially when they’re doing their oral care regimen on their own. It’s especially hard to keep those back molars clean since that’s where all the food particles gather. While there is no substitute for good brushing and flossing habits, did you know that there is another way to keep those back teeth clean and decay-free?
So, what is a sealant?
A sealant is exactly what the name indicates. It’s a very thin, protective coating that can be applied to the chewing surface of the back teeth – the molars. It’s made from plastic or other dental materials and is safe for use. As a matter of fact, dentists have been using sealants for many years and it’s been easy for them to observe the advantages they’re provided for kids who might otherwise be dealing with lots of cavities and tooth decay.
As a matter of fact, studies show that school-aged children who don’t have sealants have about three times more cavities than those who do.
That’s a lot of cavities! And it’s also been proven that applying sealants to the molars reduce decay in that area of the mouth by as much as 80 percent! That means your child’s oral health improves greatly with sealants, eliminating the need for additional dental appointments and the potentially painful procedures that we all try to avoid.
How do sealants work?
When sealants are applied to the molars, the small bits of food that normally settle in the cracks and crevices, causing bacteria to form, are kept out. So, sealant acts like protective armor for your child’s teeth!
When a child doesn’t brush well, leftover food particles in the molars can create acid if not removed, making holes in the teeth. Those holes are better known as cavities. By applying sealant, those cavities don’t have the opportunity to form and your child won’t require “fillings” to close up the holes.
In the long-run, sealant can save you multiple trips to your pediatric dentist and help you cut down on costs associated with tooth decay.
When should my child have their molars sealed?
Generally, molars make their first appearance at about age 6 but it could be earlier or later. Nonetheless, it’s a wise idea to talk to your Anchorage pediatric dentist about sealants as soon as the molars poke through. If you’ve missed that opportunity, however, it’s okay to do it later. You’ll still be giving your child the upper hand on cavities.
In actuality, a pediatric dentist might even recommend sealants for teens and even adults if he or she thinks the patient will benefit. It’s never too late to delay decay!
However, even if there’s already some areas of decay or a few signs that it might be starting, the sealant can be placed over the decay to stop it from progressing. Sealants are clear so your child’s dentist can easily observe the area of concern during regular visits to determine whether further action needs to be taken.
How does the dentist apply the sealant?
The process of applying sealant is quick and painless! The dentist starts by cleaning and drying the molars and then places an acidic gel on them, which roughens up the tooth surface a bit. It’s perfectly safe! That rough surface helps create a strong bond between the tooth and the sealant.
After letting the gel sit for a short time, it will be rinsed off and the teeth will be dried again. At this point, the sealant is applied onto the groves of the tooth. Then, a special blue light is used to harden the sealant. That’s all there is to it! After the sealant is applied, your dentist will provide any additional instructions for you to follow at home.
There are no known side effects from sealants but, on rare occasions, someone might be allergic to the material used. If your child has any unusual reactions, call your pediatric dentist immediately or bring your child to the emergency room if you deem it necessary.
I heard there’s BPA in sealants!
Yes, there is a tiny bit of BPA in sealants but the miniscule amount present will not harm your child. Scientists say that the amount of BPA in the sealants used by dentists is less than you would be exposed to if you inhaled dust or used certain BPA-containing cosmetics.
Do they last a long time?
If your child has had sealants applied to his or her teeth, chances are it might eventually need to be reapplied. This is especially true if it was applied shortly after your child’s first molars appeared. With regular check-ups, your pediatric dentist will be able to keep an eye on the condition of the sealant and can suggest reapplication when necessary.
If you’re interested in more information about sealants and whether they are right for your child, call Anchorage Pediatric Dentistry at (907)562-1003 and speak to one of our team members or ask at your child’s next dental visit. Most dental insurance plans cover the application of sealants while others do not. If you’d like more information don’t hesitate to contact us today! We look forward to meeting you and your child(ren)!