Besides good oral hygiene and regular dental checkups, dental sealants are another preventive measure that protects the teeth against decay. Tooth cavities or decay remains the most common childhood disease in the United States. Despite the importance of dental sealants, many parents do not know about their purpose and how they work to protect a child’s oral health.
When dentists recommend dental sealants
It is critical to deploy measures to prevent cavities early in life. Babies who experience cavities are likely to have cavities as adults, which could cause a cycle of oral health problems. Preventing cavities before they happen keeps the child safe. That is the purpose of dental sealants.
A child's baby teeth and permanent teeth in their early stages are more susceptible to decay than adult teeth. The hard enamel layer protects the teeth over the years to make them stronger. Fluoride provided in toothpaste, drinking water or dental treatments in the office can also strengthen the enamel, but the pits and fissures of the teeth are harder to protect. Most cases of tooth decay tend to be on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth, the premolars and molars.
Cavities happen as a gradual process, a slow deterioration of the tooth enamel. The bacteria present in the mouth feed on the sugar present in foods, producing acids that erode the enamel and weaken it. The molars and premolars have pits and fissures for chewing and grinding foods. The grooves make it easy for them to trap the debris and make thorough cleaning harder. This makes them the perfect spots for decay.
Dental sealant is a protective coating applied over the chewing surface of the premolars and molars. The dentist will recommend applying sealants to protect the teeth from tooth decay. With dental sealants, it is easier to clean the chewing surfaces because it is harder for food to get trapped there.
The baby teeth are vital for the successful eruption of permanent teeth by maintaining their space. Protecting them from cavities helps prevent premature loss of the teeth. Therefore, any baby teeth or permanent teeth are eligible for dental sealants.
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When to apply sealants
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), the best time to seal the permanent teeth is the time of eruption, before decay occurs. The first permanent molars erupt around age 6; then the next set will come in when they are around 11 to 13 years old. If the child's premolars have deep grooves, the dentist may suggest sealing them. These premolars appear between ages 10 and 11.
Wisdom teeth are the last set of teeth to erupt. There is sometimes no space on the jaws to accommodate them, and they tend to be problematic. Most times, the dentist will recommend removing them. However, if the dental professional believes that the wisdom teeth will play a functional role in the patient’s dentition, they may recommend applying sealants over them to prevent decay.
Dental sealants are an effective and safe way to stop tooth decay. To learn more about the treatment and how you can get dental sealants, book an appointment with the dentist.
Request an appointment or call Elm Street Family Dental at 541-393-9196 for an appointment in our Albany office.
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