Dental sealants may be the best way to prevent dental cavities in kids.
Dental cavities, also known as tooth decay or dental caries, are a common problem that can lead to pain, unsightly teeth and even tooth loss. About 20 percent of children aged 5 to 11 years old have at least one untreated cavity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and 13 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 19 have at least one untreated cavity.
The number of children with cavities has dropped dramatically since municipalities started adding fluoride to the water supply. Before cities began fluoridating water, children had about three times as many cavities, according to the American Dental Association (ADA).
Fluoride works by strengthening the enamel, which is the tough outer coating of teeth. Cavities develop when bacteria eat sugar leftover in the mouth by food and drink. When bacteria eat sugar, they create acid that eats away at enamel. Left unchecked, erosion of the enamel can turn into a hole, or cavity. Because of their shape and location at the back of the mouth, which make molars difficult to clean, the back teeth are more susceptible to cavities. In fact, 9 of 10 cavities occur in the permanent back teeth.
While fluoride is a good start, dental sealants add an extra layer of protection from cavities. In fact, sealants can eliminate the need for more expensive and invasive treatments, such as dental fillings and crowns, needed to treat cavities once they occur.
Sealants act like a protective shield against food and germs. Dental sealants protect against 81 percent of cavities for two years following application, and they continue to protect against 50 percent of cavities for four years. School-age kids who do not have sealants have nearly three times more cavities in their molars than do children with sealants.
What are Dental Sealants?
Sealant is a resin material that covers the top surfaces of the back teeth and fills in the grooves of those teeth. Without sealant, bacteria in the mouth can get into those grooves and produce acid that eats away at tooth enamel, causing cavities. Sealant creates a barrier that blocks bacteria from getting into the grooves in the first place.
Getting dental sealants is a quick and painless process. First, the dentist cleans and dries the teeth before applying a gel that roughs up the tooth to create a better bond between the teeth and the sealant. Next, the dentist rinses and dries the teeth. The dentist then paints thin coatings of the dental sealants onto the surface of the molars to provide long-lasting protection for these teeth. Finally, the dentist uses a special blue light to harden the sealant.
Dental sealants provide instant protection from tooth decay. In fact, children can chew immediately after getting sealants.
Because sealants safely and effectively reduce the risk of cavities, many federal health officials are encouraging more parents, health care providers and schools to make sure children get dental sealants. Dentists offer dental sealants to adults and children. School sealant programs offer dental sealants to children who are less likely to undergo dental sealants provided by a dentist.
What about BPA?
Some parents are wary because they worry about the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) in sealants. BPA is a resin found in many plastics, such as water bottles and metal food can liners. Some research suggests that exposure to BPA at a young age may affect behavior and thinking. Dental sealants contain compounds that may turn into BPA upon contact with saliva. The American Dental Association discusses research that shows a 6-year-old child is exposed to more BPA through food and drinks, shampoo, body wash, cosmetics, sunscreen, air and thermal paper than through dental sealants.
The benefits of dental sealants vastly outweigh the possible risks of BPA.
Williams & Daily Dental is a family and cosmetic dentist located in North Raleigh, NC with a team of dedicated dentists enthusiastic in their commitment to their patients. We offer dental implants, Invisalign teeth straightening, in-office and home teeth whitening options, and Oral-B electric toothbrushes. Contact Williams & Daily at (919) 846-9070 for more information and to schedule an appointment today.