Most parents know that good dental hygiene is important for their child. You probably make sure that your child brushes their teeth a few times a day, and you try to limit hard, sticky, and sugary treats that cling to the teeth and lead to cavities. But is it enough? The truth is that some people are more prone to cavities than others, and it can be tough to prevent them with good hygiene alone, no matter how vigilant you are. Your dentist has a solution that may make your job easier, however: dental sealants. Take a look at what you need to know about dental sealants so that you can decide whether they're right for your child.
What Are Dental Sealants?
Simply put, dental sealants are a plastic coating installed over your child's teeth. Sealants are usually applied on the molars, because they're the teeth that do most of the chewing and have the most contact with food, and therefore they're most at risk for decay. What's more, they're also the teeth that are often hardest for a child to reach when brushing, so they may not always get brushed as thoroughly as other teeth.
Applying dental sealants is easy and painless. Your dentist will probably apply the sealants during a routine cleaning appointment. They will clean the teeth that are going to be sealed and dry them, then paint liquid plastic onto the teeth. In a few minutes, the plastic will harden, and your child will have a thin barrier over the surface of their teeth that prevents food and bacteria from coming in contact with the tooth. Sealants are usually applied twice – once when the first permanent molars emerge, at around 6 or 7 years of age, and again when the second molars emerge, at around 12 or 13 years of age.
Are Dental Sealants Safe?
It's normal to have concerns about adding plastic to your child's mouth, and in fact there is at least one health concern that's related to dental sealants: BPA. BPA, or Bisphenol A, is a resin that is found in many plastics that may have some negative effects on human health, and on child development in particular. You've probably seen baby bottles, water bottles, and food storage containers advertised as being "BPA free". That's because many consumers have chosen to avoid this substance whenever possible.
Dental sealants don't contain BPA by themselves, but some of them do contain compounds that can create BPA when mixed with saliva. So far, there's no proof that this has any negative health effects, but it's still best to be cautious. Luckily, your dentist can remove 88% to 95% of these BPA-causing compounds simply by scrubbing and rinsing the sealants after they're applied, which greatly reduces any potential health risks. Your dentist may also offer dental sealants that are free of BPA-causing compounds, eliminating the risk entirely.
Are Dental Sealants Worth It?
The fact is, many dentists strongly recommend dental sealants for all or most children. The benefits of sealants largely outweigh any known risks. Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease affecting children and adolescents. To put that into perspective, consider that tooth decay is 4 times more common than asthma among 14 to 17 year olds. And tooth decay can follow children into adulthood, which is probably why 9 out of 10 adults over 20 also experience tooth decay.
Dental sealants can make a big dent in those numbers. According to the Center for Disease Control, sealants can reduce decay in school children by over 70%. Sealants could be just the thing your child needs to help them reach adulthood without experiencing tooth decay. Furthermore, it's important for children who have already had cavities, or who have teeth that contain many pits and grooves that make their teeth more vulnerable to tooth decay, to get dental sealants to help prevent further decay.
It's difficult to overstate the importance of doing everything you can to prevent childhood tooth decay. Dental sealants are an effective tool to help with those prevention efforts. Talk to your child's dentist, someone from a place like Treasured Smiles Dentistry, about whether or not your child would benefit from dental sealants.Share