Tooth decay has become a common occurrence among children of all ages. Not only do cavities lead to pain and possible tooth loss, they also set young patients up for a future of oral health problems. Decay contains bacteria that can spread from the pulp to the surrounding periodontal tissues, which can cause inflammation and possibly an abscess. To help protect teeth from suffering the consequences of cavities, your pediatric dentist may recommend dental sealants.
1. They Act as a Preventative Measure
While children can get dental sealants even if they’ve had a treated cavity in the past, most dentists recommend them as a preventive measure. Sealants should be placed on the permanent molars as soon as the teeth come in, and before decay has the opportunity to attack the teeth. On average, the first permanent molars (“6 year molars”) come in around ages 5 to 7, and the second permanent molars (“12 year molars”) come in between ages 11 and 14.
2. They Last a Long Time
Placing dental sealants is a fast, pain-free, and non-invasive procedure. It begins with the pediatric dentist thoroughly cleaning your child’s teeth. Each tooth is then dried, and an acid solution is placed on the chewing surfaces to slightly roughen them up. The roughed up surface allows the plastic coating to better adhere. Once the sealing material is painted onto the teeth, it can last for up to 10 years. If they wear down or chip away in the meantime, they can usually be repaired by adding more coating material.
3. They are Inexpensive
Many dental procedures are notorious for being fairly expensive. Fortunately, dental sealants are not one of them. This common procedure is typically covered by most insurance companies until your child reaches 14 years of age. If your insurance company doesn’t cover them, you can expect to pay about $25 to $50 per tooth.
4. They Can Reach Small Grooves and Crevices
It’s highly difficult for kids to reach all the small grooves and crevices found on their teeth, even with mom and dad’s help. Unfortunately, these small nooks and crannies are where plaque likes to hide and flourish. Sealants act as a barrier, helping to prevent food and bacteria from collecting on tooth surfaces. As the thin, plastic coating is painted on the chewing surfaces of the teeth, it bonds to the grooves and depressions, forming a protective shield in which tooth decay cannot easily penetrate.
Dental sealants cannot prevent all cavities from forming, especially if your child does not engage in proper oral healthcare or eats or drinks too many sugary foods and beverages. However, kids who received this procedure are 78 percent less likely to need fillings then kids who did not. Remember, while regular brushing and flossing is highly effective at keeping teeth and gums healthy and free of decay, it’s not always possible to reach every tooth surface with a tooth brush alone. Your child’s pediatric dentist can help “seal out” bad bacteria with a fast and simple dental sealant procedure.