There are few things more beautiful in life than your child’s smile, so what if you could protect it for years to come? With preventative dentistry, it’s possible! In addition to creating healthy habits early on when it comes to brushing and flossing with your child, preventative care, like twice-yearly dental cleanings, can go a long way in keeping decay at bay. But there’s one preventative service that is underutilized and can make a big difference for your child’s health: dental sealants.
To understand why dental sealants are such a game-changer, first you should know that the CDC has identified tooth decay as the single most common chronic disease of childhood. In fact, tooth decay is so common that the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) reports that 42% of children ages 2 to 11 have cavities, while children living in lower-income households report more decay than higher-income peers.
Tooth decay affects everyone (90% of adults in the United States alone reported having had a cavity at one point or another) but for children, dental sealants can prevent 80% of cavities from ever happening! By preventing tooth decay, you protect your child’s ability to speak, eat, learn and play without discomfort or pain.
Because 9 out of 10 cavities occur in the molars, they’re usually the only teeth that need to be sealed. Since your child will get their first molars around age 6 and their second molars around age 12, these ages are the perfect opportunities to seal the teeth. However, a 2016 CDC report found only 43% of children ages 6 to 11 have sealants, and their sealant-free peers reported three times as many cavities.
So how do dental sealants work?
Dental sealants are applied as a thin coating over the deep pits and grooves of the molars, preventing plaque and bacteria from building up in hard-to-reach places. The application process begins with each tooth being cleaned and dried to keep bacteria from getting trapped. Then, an etching solution is applied to the chewing surface of the teeth to help the sealant stick. The tooth is dried again, and then the sealant is brushed onto the tooth and cured with a special light for about a minute.
Sealants are a fast, effective and painless preventative measure, making for one of the easiest dental visits your child will ever have. In fact, because there is no pain or discomfort associated with sealants, your child’s mouth will not need to be numbed. Like with any changes in the mouth, your child may be aware of the sealants for a few days following the appointment, but then will likely forget they exist.
Sealants dry clear, so your child’s dentist can still see each tooth and watch for any changes at future appointments. And while sealants don’t last forever, they do give your child several years to master their healthy habits so that when the sealants do wear off, they’ll be more able to effectively prevent decay.
Because sealants exist firmly in the realm of preventative services, most insurances – including Medicaid – cover sealants at 100% up to ages 14 to 16. Preventative dentistry is always more affordable than restorative.
This National Children’s Dental Health Month, in addition to spending some extra time talking about the importance of regular brushing and flossing with your child, ask your child’s dentist about the benefits of sealants. Your child’s smile will thank you for it!
Editor’s note: Dental Depot has multiple offices open six days a week, always sees emergencies same-day and provides care for the whole family. For those who don’t have dental insurance, Dental Depot offers discounts to self-pay patients to keep services accessible. To find which Dental Depot office is near you, visit them online at dentaldepot.net/find-location.