When dentists tell children to “open wide,” they are likely to find cavities in their back teeth, where brushing is more difficult.
That’s why dental sealants are a good investment in the health of children, and even some adults.
Sealants are thin, plastic coatings that act as a barrier against decay-causing bacteria. Sealants are usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (premolars and molars) where decay occurs most often.
Since kids don’t always brush and floss properly, sealants are a good way to prevent the buildup of plaque and food in the small pits and fissures of teeth not easily cleaned by a toothbrush.
Decay-free & save money
“With sealants, a low sugar-content diet, fluoride, and good dental care, most people could be decay-free,” says John R. Mink, D.D.S., M.S.D., University of Kentucky College of Dentistry, professor of pediatric dentistry.
However, a recent Kentucky Dental Health Survey showed that 71% of the state’s children don’t have sealants.
“A sound tooth is better than a filled tooth,” says Mink. “Tooth decay is highly preventable when sealants are used. That’s why every child should have them.”
Sealants can save money and discomfort, rather than letting teeth decay that need to be filled. In fact, most dental health insurance plans cover the cost of sealants for children under 16. Adults who are susceptible to cavities and need sealants are also better off paying for prevention rather than facing the cost of repairing teeth.
A simple procedure
Applying a sealant is a simple process. First, the tooth must be thoroughly cleaned. A special cleansing liquid is then applied to the tooth. Next, the liquid is thoroughly rinsed and the tooth is dried. Finally, the sealant is painted on the tooth and cured with a high-intensity light.
The procedure takes only minutes and can offer years of protection. On average, sealants are known to last five to 10 years.
“Sealants should be checked regularly and can be reapplied if necessary,” Mink says.
When to apply
The best time to apply sealants is when a child’s molars first come in and are completely erupted. Most kids receive their permanent molars between ages 6 and 12.
“It’s never too late to get sealants, but the sooner the better,” Mink says. “Almost all instances of cavities could be avoided by combining sealants with other tooth care regimens and a low-sugar diet.”