Cavities are no laughing matter, whether in adults or children. And here’s a scary fact: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cavities remain the most common chronic disease of children 6 to 19 years of age. Unfortunately, children in low income families have higher rates of dental disease than higher-income children, because they don’t often get regular dental care.
Brushing and flossing regularly are the best ways to prevent cavities, but it’s not always easy to get to all of the places food and bacteria can hide, especially for children. Molars, those back teeth we use to chew, are a great hiding place for leftover food and cavity-causing bacteria.
But there is something else that’s been shown to be very effective at preventing cavities: Dental Sealants. A sealant is a thin, protective coating (made from plastic or other dental materials) that adheres to the chewing surface of your back teeth. They can help keep cavities from forming, and may even stop early stages of decay from becoming a full-blown cavity.
In fact, sealants have been shown to reduce the risk of decay by nearly 80% in molars. – American Dental Association
School-age children (ages 6-11) without sealants have almost 3 times more 1st molar cavities than those with sealants. Although the overall number of children with sealants has increased over time, low-income children are 20% less likely to have them and 2 times more likely to have untreated cavities than higher-income children.
Let’s read that again, and let it sink in:
School-age children without sealants have almost 3 times more 1st molar cavities than those with sealants.
So how do they work?
Dental sealants act as a barrier to prevent cavities. They are a plastic material usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth where decay occurs most often. Sealants protect these vulnerable areas by “sealing out” plaque and food and are easy for your dentist to apply.
Who should get them?
The likelihood of developing pit and fissure decay begins early in life, so children and teenagers are obvious candidates, but adults can benefit from sealants as well. Your first molars appear around age six, and second molars break through around age 12. Sealing these teeth as soon as they come through can keep them cavity-free from the start, which helps save time and money in the long run.
Are there any side effects?
There are no known side effects to sealants.
How long do sealants last?
Sealants can last for years, but eventually will need to be reapplied. Ask your dentist to check their condition at your regular visit, in case they need reapplying.
If you or your child are interested in dental sealants, call our office to schedule a visit.