A dental sealant is a thin, plastic coating that is applied to molars and premolars, usually in children and teenagers, in order to prevent tooth decay. Once the coating is applied it dries quickly and becomes a barrier for bacteria that can cause cavities. Your San Diego, CA family dentist can apply sealants on your child’s mouth but in some countries, sealants are also applied in schools. The procedure is painless and takes only a few minutes but can make a world of difference when it comes to tooth decay. Sealants can be applied on both milk and wisdom teeth.
Many parents are averse to getting sealants for their children because they did not have them applied themselves when they were little. In fact, it is only in the last 20 years that sealants have become popular. Some worry that they may have long term negative health effects. If this is your concern it should not be – sealants are perfectly safe for your child and you shouldn’t worry that they will be affected in any way. In fact, by getting them sealants you are saving yourself and them the trouble of dealing with cavities later in life – root canals cost money and they can be quite painful.
One of the most common questions that parents ask when it comes to sealants is at what age should their child get them. The age at which your child gets sealants is determined by their predisposition to cavities. If they eat a lot of sugary foods, for example, you may want to get them sealants when they are as young as 3 or 4. If, however, you feed them a proper diet then the recommended age for sealants is when the first wisdom teeth pop, usually around when they are 7.
What does the procedure involve?
Getting sealants, as we already mentioned is easy and fast. Here is what you can expect:
- Once you take your child to your San Diego, CA dentist, the first thing they will do is thoroughly clean the teeth that are to be sealed.
- The teeth are then dried completely and to make sure that they don’t get wet again from saliva, the dentist packs the area with cotton wool or another absorbent material.
- The dentist then places an acid solution on each tooth. This is done in order to roughen the teeth up so that the sealant can bond better to the tooth.
- The next step is to rinse and dry the teeth again.
- The sealant is then applied to the teeth. It hardens fast. In some cases, the dentist may use a special light to dry the sealant faster, usually in very young children who cannot stay still for the sealant to bond.
Sealants can last as long as 10 years but you should take your child to the dentist at least 4 times a year for him to inspect the sealants for wear and tear – if they chip they allow for bacteria to get through which can lead to dental cavities. It is also very important that you emphasize the important of good oral hygiene to your child. They should brush their teeth twice a day and also before they get into bed at night. You should get them fluoride toothpaste to ensure that they grow up to have strong, health teeth.
Is there an alternative to dental sealants?
As a matter of fact there is. One of the biggest risk factors when it comes to cavities is the diet that your child eats. If your child is not getting a balanced diet it is quite possible that they will develop dental cavities or they will grow up with weak teeth. Make sure that all food groups are represented in every meal – they should get some protein, some health carbohydrates as well as a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. Instead of snacking on sugary, processed foods you should encourage them to eat healthy nuts. Limit sugar as much as you can if you want your child to have strong and healthy teeth – it is not just molars that are affected by cavities; the front teeth could go too.
Can sealants be used on teeth that already have cavities?
The answer is that it depends on the size of the cavity. If it is big and has already affected the root of the tooth then your child needs a root canal and not a sealant – the bacteria are already far deep into the tooth and sealing the tooth with them there is not a good idea. If, however, the cavity is small you can prevent it from getting bigger by applying sealant