Preventing Tooth Decay With Sealants

by Michael Vold, DDS, JD

Despite the many proactive measures that can be taken to prevent tooth decay, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows cavities in children between the ages of two and five increasing 15.2% from 1988-1994 to 1999-2002. It has also been reported that approximately 20% of U.S. children and teens have untreated cavities.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, not only is tooth decay in young children on the rise, more preschoolers are showing up at dental offices with cavities needing extensive dental procedures, including dental surgery requiring anesthesia. Some dental offices have reported children as young as 2 with six to ten cavities at a time.

Maintaining good oral health at every stage of life is vital. Taking care of your teeth not only prevents future tooth loss, it reduces the risk of many other diseases, such as periodontitis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even osteoporosis or to have to implant teeth. Learning more about cosmetic dentistry, you can know the different solutions available to fix dental problems.

Healthy eating is one way to minimize the possibility of cavities. Avoid foods that contain sugar as much as possible. Regular brushing and flossing is also important when it comes to oral health and whitening of teeth. Another effective way children and teens can protect their teeth from decay is with dental sealants.

Sealants have had American Dental Association (ADA) approval for over 35 years. Made of tooth-colored acrylic, they fill a tooth’s pits and grooves with a protective covering. Dental sealants prevent tooth decay by shielding teeth from the mouth bacteria, acids and sugars that come from food particles.

Dental sealants are generally applied to permanent molars, which start growing when a child is around six years of age. Permanent molars continue to push through the gums until a child is 12 or 13 years of age. These back teeth are often the hardest to reach and keep clean, even with regular brushing. The sealant is applied to the chewing portion of the molar, where decay and cavities are most likely to occur.

Sealants have also been used on baby teeth when necessary, and for pits and grooves in adult teeth.

The procedure for applying dental sealants is simple and easy. First, the teeth are thoroughly cleaned using a rotating brush and paste. Depending on the type of sealant that is used, an acidic liquid may need to be applied to the teeth to prepare them for the sealant. Once the solution has dried, it is washed off. Next, the dental sealant is painted onto to the teeth, filling any crevices, pits and grooves. As the sealant dries, it hardens, forming a protective coating over the teeth.

Sometimes a light is used to speed up the drying process. The entire procedure takes only a few minutes and is completely painless.

Types of dental sealants include resin, Glass Ionomer Cement (GIC) and fluoride-containing sealants.

Sealants can last from five to ten years. They are also easily replaced if they become worn or chipped. If you have young children and are concerned about tooth decay and cavities, ask your dentist about dental sealants, one of the best ways of insuring your child’s oral health.