Dental sealants are plastic coatings that are normally placed on the chewing – or “occlusal” – surface of the permanent back teeth (i.e. the molars and premolars) to help protect them from decay. The chewing surfaces of the molar and premolar teeth boast groves – or “fissures” – that make them vulnerable to decay. Indeed, you can think of sealants as barriers to prevent cavities because though brushing and flossing help remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of the teeth, toothbrush bristles cannot extend to the depressions and grooves to extract this debris. Sealants protect these susceptible areas by “sealing off” plaque and food.
When it comes to children’s oral health, children and teenagers are candidates for sealants. Why? Because of their likelihood of developing decay in the depressions and grooves of the premolars and molars. Typically, children should get sealants on their permanent molars and premolars as soon as these teeth come in; as experts in oral health for all ages, Park Avenue Dental can assure you that sealants will protect the teeth through the cavity-prone years of ages six through 14. In some cases, dental sealants can even be appropriate for baby teeth – such as when a child’s baby teeth have developed deep depressions and grooves – and because baby teeth play such a vital role in maintaining the correct spacing for permanent ones, it’s important to keep these teeth healthy so they’re lot falling out too early.
Before we delve into why they’re ideal for kids and their overall oral health, let’s take a quick peek at how sealants operate:
How Are Sealants Applied?
As a simple and painless process, applying sealants takes only a few minutes as performed by such dental experts as Dr. Michael Sherman of Park Avenue Dental. The application process for sealing each tooth includes:
- Thoroughly cleaning the teeth to be sealed.
- Drying each tooth, followed by cotton or another absorbent material put around the tooth to keep it dry.
- Putting an acid solution on the chewing surfaces of the teeth to roughen them up, helping the sealant bond.
- Rinsing and drying the teeth.
- Painting the sealant onto the tooth enamel, bonding it directly to the tooth where it hardens. In some cases, a special curing light is applied to help the sealant harden.
How Long do Sealants Last?
Sealants can do the job of protecting teeth from decay for to 10 years, though they should be checked periodically for chipping or wearing (this could be looked at during regular dental check-ups). Dentists such as Dr. Sherman can replace sealants as necessary.
Six-Year/12-Year Molars…and More About Dental Sealants and Kids
The natural flow of saliva in the mouth usually keeps the smooth surfaces of teeth clean – but this does not wash out the grooves and fissures. As such, the teeth most at risk of decay and therefore most in need of sealants are the six-year and 12-year molars…and many times the permanent premolars and primary molars will also benefit from sealant coverage. Any tooth, however, boasting grooves or pits may benefit from the protection of dental sealants. A question we often hear at Park Avenue Dental from concerned parents is, “If my child has a dental sealant treatment, is brushing and flossing still important?” and our immediate answer is always “Absolutely!” Dental sealants are only one step in your child’s plan to keep his or her mouth cavity-free for a lifetime – brushing, flossing, balanced nutrition, limited snacking and regular dental visits are still essential to a bright, healthy smile.
Look Ma, No Cavities!
In an ad campaign reminescent of Don Draper’s character in Mad Men, the Crest company appealed to TV audiences of the 60s and 70s by offering its Fluoristan-enriched toothpaste to help prevent adolescent cavities. But how times have changed…now, modern dentists such as Dr. Sherman of Park Avenue Dental are utilizing a more intuitive approach by sealing children’s back teeth with air-tight plastic shields known, of course, as dental sealants.
A review study conducted by the Cochrane Collaboration, a group that evaluates medical research claims, discovered that five-to-10-year-olds who used sealants ended up with less than half the decay on biting surfaces five years following treatment than those who regularly brushed.
But we can’t stress this enough: Plaque is like email…it arrives in your inbox every day, you delete it and it comes right back again. Likewise with sealants, patients have to be diligent about brushing and flossing daily to remove plaque from the flat surfaces on the sides and in-between teeth, and help sealants along in their job of helping prevent plaque from invading the pits and crevices on the chewing surfaces of molars where bacteria can eat away. Creating this barrier cuts off plaque’s nutrient supply – and that’s a good thing.
According to AFG Research, a firm that tracks use of dental and medical products, between 45 million and 55 million sealants are applied each year in the United States, with pediatric dentists performing more than twice as many procedures as either general dentists or dental hygienists. Support for the sealants is shared by oral health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who are in particular favor of school-based sealant programs that reach kids who don’t receive regular care.
The Park Avenue Dental Difference
Has your child ever begged you not to drop them off and leave them at the dentist? Impossible to do, you say? Not at Park Avenue Dental. Perhaps it’s our gentle touch and special way with kids; or perhaps the way Dr. Sherman and his specialists love children and are especially trained to put them at ease. We teach your children the proper way to take care of their teeth and just as important, they learn that going to the dentist could be fun.
Some dental issues begin very early in life, and we’re well aware of that. One concern is early childhood tooth decay, a serious condition caused by a child staying on the bottle –or breast – too long, while another problem tends to be gum disease. About 40-percent of children two to three years of age show at least mild inflammation of gum tissue, so the earlier the dental visit, the better the chances of nipping these problems in the bud. Strong, healthy teeth help your child chew food easily, speak clearly and just feel good about his or her appearance.
Here’s the bottom line: Tooth decay and children no longer need to go hand-in-hand. At our office, we are most concerned with all aspects of preventive care – we use the latest in sealant technology to protect your child’s teeth, and this is just one of the ways Park Avenue Dental sets the foundation for a lifetime of good children’s oral health.