Dental sealant is a thin, plastic coating placed on the chewing surfaces of teeth -- usually the back teeth (the premolars and molars) -- to prevent tooth decay. The sealant quickly bonds into the depressions and grooves of the teeth, forming a protective shield over the enamel of each tooth.
Although thorough brushing and flossing can remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth, they cannot always get into all the nooks and crannies (pit and fissures) of the back teeth to remove the food and plaque. Sealants protect these vulnerable areas from tooth decay by "sealing out" plaque and food.
Who Should Get Sealants?
Because of the likelihood of developing decay in the depressions and grooves of the premolars and molars, children and teenagers are candidates for sealants. However, adults without decay or fillings in their molars can also benefit from sealants.
Typically, children should get sealants on their permanent molars and premolars as soon as these teeth come in. In this way, the sealants can protect the teeth through the cavity-prone years of ages 6 to 14.
In some cases, dental sealants may also be appropriate for baby teeth, such as when a child's baby teeth have deep depressions and grooves. Because baby teeth play such an important role in holding the correct spacing for permanent teeth, it's important to keep these teeth healthy so they are not lost too early.
How Are Sealants Applied?
Applying sealant is a simple and painless process. It takes only a few minutes for your dentist or hygienist to apply the sealant to seal each tooth. The application steps are as follows:
1.First the teeth that are to be sealed are thoroughly cleaned.
2.Each tooth is then dried, and cotton or another absorbent material is put around the tooth to keep it dry.
3.An acid solution is put on the chewing surfaces of the teeth to roughen them up, which helps the sealant bond to the teeth.
4.The teeth are then rinsed and dried.
5.Sealant is then painted onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens. Usually a special curing light is used to help the sealant harden.
How Long Do Sealants Last?
Sealants can protect teeth from decay for up to 10 years, but they need to be checked for chipping or wearing at regular dental check-ups. Our dentists can replace sealants as necessary.
Does Insurance cover the cost of sealants?
Many insurance companies cover the cost of sealants. Check with your dental insurance carrier to determine if sealants are covered under your plan.
Fluorine, a natural element in the fluoride compound, has proven to be effective in minimizing childhood cavities and tooth decay. Fluoride is a key ingredient in many popular brands of toothpaste, oral gel, and mouthwash, and can also be found in most community water supplies. Though fluoride is an important part of any good oral care routine, overconsumption can result in a condition known as fluorosis.
How can fluoride prevent tooth decay?
Fluoride fulfills two important dental functions. First, it helps staunch mineral loss from tooth enamel, and second, it promotes the remineralization of tooth enamel.
When carbohydrates (sugars) are consumed, oral bacteria feed on them and produce harmful acids. These acids attack tooth enamel - especially in children who take medications or produce less saliva. Repeated acid attacks result in cavities and tooth decay. Fluoride protects tooth enamel from acid attacks and reduces the risk of childhood tooth decay.
Fluoride is especially effective when used as part of a good oral hygiene regimen. Reducing the consumption of sugary foods, brushing and flossing regularly, and visiting the pediatric dentist biannually, all supplement the work of fluoride and keep young teeth healthy.
How much fluoride is enough?
Since community water supplies and toothpastes usually contain fluoride, it is essential that children do not ingest too much. For this reason, children under the age of two should use an ADA-approved, non-fluoridated brand of toothpaste. Children between the ages of two and five years old should use a pea-sized amount of ADA-approved fluoridated toothpaste, on a clean toothbrush, twice each day. They should be encouraged to spit out any extra fluid after brushing. This part might take time, encouragement, and practice.
The amount of fluoride children ingest between the ages of one and four years old determines whether or not fluorosis occurs later. The most common symptom of fluorosis is white specks on the permanent teeth. Children over the age of eight years old are not considered to be at-risk for fluorosis, but should still use an ADA-approved brand of toothpaste.
Does my child need fluoride supplements?
The dentist will ask questions in order to determine how much fluoride the child is currently receiving, gain a general health history, and evaluate the sugar content in the child’s diet. If a child is not receiving enough fluoride and is determined to be at high-risk for tooth decay, an at-home fluoride supplement might be recommended.
Topical fluoride can also be applied to the tooth enamel quickly and painlessly during a regular office visit. There are many convenient forms of topical fluoride, including foam, liquids, varnishes, and gels. Depending on the age of the child and their willingness to cooperate, topical fluoride can either be held on the teeth for several minutes in specialized trays or painted on with a brush.
If you have questions or concerns about fluoride or fluorosis, please contact our office.