Sealants can stop cavities before they begin

sealants stop cavities

Children are prone to cavities because of the natural shape of their growing teeth. When first molars come in around age 6, deep crevices called pits and fissures form on the chewing surfaces of these back teeth. Pits and fissures are so narrow that the bristles of a toothbrush cannot reach into them, making them difficult to clean; however, these crevices provide plenty of room for bacteria to grow.

Children's eating habits also lead to cavities because their diets generally include frequent snacking. Children are usually brushing their own teeth by age 6, and they may not be doing an adequate job. They rarely brush as often as necessary and their technique may need an occasional check by an adult.

What can you do? Sealants may be the answer

Dental sealants can protect your children from cavities. Sealants are applied to the chewing surfaces of molars to act as a barrier between the tooth and harmful bacteria. They are most effective when applied to decay-susceptible biting surfaces as soon as the teeth come in. Here's how sealants work: The sealing material is applied to the tooth surface using an "etching" fluid. The sealant partially penetrates the tooth enamel, ensuring that it is firmly attached to the tooth. Once applied, the sealant fills in the tooth's grooves, hardens and creates a thin plastic barrier that keeps cavity-causing bacteria out of the pits and fissures.

Application is fast and painless

Your child will be happy to know that with sealants, there is no drilling and no discomfort. Sealants can be applied by either your dentist or a registered dental hygienist, and application takes less time than having a tooth filled.

After many years in use, sealants have proven to be safe, durable and effective. Check your Delta Dental Evidence of Coverage booklet to see if your plan includes coverage for sealants. Usually, sealants are covered when applied to first molars through age 8 and second molars through age 15. However, coverage for some groups may be different. Ask your dentist about how your child can benefit from the application of sealants.

Other cavity prevention techniques

Regular at-home preventive care — brushing and flossing after every meal — can also help keep your child's dental problems to a minimum. From age 2, children should begin to brush their own teeth with a parent's help. Use a small, soft brush with a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.

Children need a balanced diet to help their bodies — including teeth — develop. Calcium is extremely important for strong teeth and to the structure of the face and jaws. Make sure your child gets an adequate supply of calcium by eating calcium rich foods such as milk, yogurt and cheese, which have been shown to inhibit the effects of harmful acids. Discourage snacks that are high in sugar or starch, and sticky foods that may remain in contact with teeth longer.

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Last updated: January 2011

The oral health information on this web site is intended for educational purposes only. You should always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.

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