It’s no coincidence that there are less cavities now than in previous generations…thanks to (TA DA) tooth sealants!
While brushing and flossing can remove cavity-casing plaque on and between teeth, these super thin, plastic sealants are applied to the deeply grooved, back teeth (molars) to protect them further. The surface of most molars are uneven, so normal brushing cannot effectively get into all of the ruts. This is why dental sealants are recommended as soon as the first permanent “6 year” molars appear (usually between age 5 and 7 years). A second treatment should be done when the second set of molars, called “12 year molars” appear – usually between 11 and 14 years of age. Sealants have proven to be a dental power house when it comes to preventing decay during those cavity-prone years. Older teens and adults can also benefit from this treatment.
Although it might be argued that toddlers do not need sealants on non-permanent,”baby” teeth, but the fact is that 6 out of 10 children experience a cavity before age 5. Untreated decay in baby teeth – cavities in toddlers is referred to as “dental caries” – can spread and cause decay in permanent teeth. Think of these temporary teeth as “placeholders”. If decay causes young teeth to fall out early there will be a void where bacteria can grow until an adult tooth erupts, which could be the beginning of gum disease.
There was a recent controversy regarding sealants and BPA (bisphenol A). You should know that the amount on BPA is so minute that the health concern is extremely minimal. The exposure to BPA lasts for only a new hours after the sealant is placed on the teeth and according to the American Dental Association, simply breathing the air exposes us to more than 100 times more BPA than sealants. So, there’s really no reasoning against sealants. They are fast, inexpensive and painless. The treatment is easy; the sealant is administered in a liquid application that quickly hardens like a shield to protect the teeth.
Dr. J. Schafer of Colorado Healthy Smiles is a proponent of sealants and clarified their use, “Dental sealants can only be applied to decay-free, clean teeth. They are not a treatment for cavities – they are a preventative”. She went on to say, “While the fluoride in toothpaste and municipal drinking waters can help prevent tooth decay on the smooth surface of a tooth, sealants work on the jagged, uneven surfaces on teeth. Without sealants, a tooth’s pits and dimples can allow food and germs to hide and remain on the tooth causing the perfect environment for tooth decay.”
Although sealants can last for up to 10 years, your dental professional should check for wear and chipping to make sure teeth are fully protected at each dental visit..
PS: No matter what they try to tell you: having sealants does not give kids a “hall pass” for brushing, flossing or a trip to the dentist!