Cavities are small holes in your teeth that can lead to big problems, such as serious infections and eventual tooth loss. Children are especially susceptible to cavities; in fact, The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research reports that 42% of children between the ages of two and 11 have experienced at least one cavity in their short lifetime.
Cavities occur when harmful bacteria in the mouth, which thrive off the tiny particles of food and sugar trapped between your teeth, produce an acid. This acidic environment allows the tooth to lose minerals in the enamel shell of the tooth. Although your teeth are constantly demineralizing and remineralizing, in an acidic environment enough net minerals can be lost until the enamel collapses with a cavitation or cavity. This is why brushing and flossing is considered one of the best ways to prevent cavities, as you’re essentially cutting off the bacteria’s food supply by physically removing it from your teeth.
The problem with brushing and flossing alone, though, is that some teeth are often missed — especially molar teeth in the far back of our mouths. For this reason, the most likely location for a cavity to develop in your child’s mouth is on the chewing surfaces of those back teeth.
So, what if we told you there was another solution that is nearly 100% effective in cavity protection, according to the Academy of General Dentistry? That solution is called a dental sealant. This thin, protective coating has been shown to reduce the risk of decay by nearly 80% in molars. This is especially important when it comes to your child’s dental health; studies have shown that children without sealants have three times as many cavities as those with sealants.
Read on to learn more about preventing tooth decay and cavities for you or your child with dental sealants.
What Are Sealants?
As explained earlier in this article, when the cavity-causing bacteria that live in our mouth meet leftover food particles, they produce acids that cause tooth demineralization that later lead to cavities. Sealants work to keep out those food particles and stop bacterial acid from settling onto your teeth. The sealant itself is made from a completely safe, thin layer of clear resin and other dental materials.
Sealants can keep cavities from forming and may even stop early stages of decay from becoming a full-blown cavity. Sealants can also be used over areas of early demineralization to prevent further damage to the tooth.
Who Should Get Sealants?
Both children and adults can benefit from sealants to protect those area of your teeth that a toothbrush is hard to reach. At Excel Dental, we especially recommend sealants for children, around the time their first molars appear (age six), and again when the second set of molars break through around age 12. Sealing these teeth as soon as they break through can prevent cavities from the start, which helps save time, money, and headache in the long run.
Our Ozark, MO dentists also recommend sealants for patients who have existing teeth with deep pits or grooves, as they are typically more susceptible to decay.
Make sure to ask your Springfield, MO dentist if dental sealants are the right option for you or your child.
What to Expect
The application of dental sealants is a fast and painless process. Your dentist will begin by cleaning and drying the teeth. Then, an acidic gel is applied. The gel helps to lightly roughen each tooth’s surface so a strong bond will form between your teeth and the sealant. Then, your dentist will rinse off the gel and dry your teeth once again before applying the bonding agent and the sealant onto the grooves of each tooth. Finally, a special curing light is used to harden the sealant.
That’s it! The entire process from start to finish usually takes about 5 – 45 minutes, depending on how many teeth you’re sealing.
Caring for Sealants
Sealants will often last for up to 10 years before needing to be reapplied. Keep in mind, though, that sealants are not a substitute for daily dental hygiene. Sealed teeth require the same conscientious oral care as unsealed teeth. Continue to encourage your child to brush and floss his or her teeth daily, along with regular professional cleanings. During your regular dental visit, your dentist will check the condition of the sealant and can reapply as needed.
Will dental sealants make my teeth feel different?
- The sealant material is very thin. Sometimes, children may feel the sealant with their tongue for a short period after the sealant is placed. This feeling will dissipate over time.
Our tap water has fluoride. Are dental sealants still necessary?
- Sealants and fluoride both prevent tooth decay, but in different ways. Sealants keep germs and food from settling into the grooves of your teeth by covering the surface with a protective shield. Fluoride in drinking water, toothpaste, and mouthwashes protects against cavities by making teeth stronger.
Is sealing a tooth better than filling a cavity?
- You know what they say: A stitch in time saves nine! Prevention is always preferred over corrective treatment. Sealants are a quick, easy, and painless way to prevent cavities. A tooth without a cavity is stronger and healthier than a tooth with a filling or untreated decay. Sealants are also more cost-effective and easier to apply than fillings.
Seal Out Cavities!
Prevent cavities and protect your child’s smile with dental sealants. Schedule an appointment today with the trusted team at Excel Dental, Dr. Tracy Davis or Dr. Nick Matthews. Find us in Ozark, Missouri — just a short 10 minute drive from Springfield.
Searching for more advice on this topic? Make sure to check out these related posts from our blog:
- Tooth Sealants Explained
- Maintain Oral Health With Fluoride
- Can You Catch A Cavity? Research Says “Yes”