Parents looking to prevent cavities from forming in their child’s teeth may try fluoride toothpaste, flossing, mouth wash – the whole routine – and think they’ve done everything they can. One option that is oftentimes overlooked when it comes to protecting teeth is dental sealants.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), dental sealants prevent 80% of cavities in back teeth, which is where 90% of all cavities occur. If left untreated, cavities may require a root canal treatment. Sealants help stop that process before it begins.
According to the CDC, currently 60% of kids ages 6 to 11 don’t get dental sealants, but dental professionals are all trying to change that. Talk to your Mission pediatric dentist today to discuss whether or not sealants are right for your child.
What Are Sealants?
Sealants are a semi-permanent way to combat cavities in kids after they lose their baby teeth. Sealant material is applied to the biting surface of molars and premolars to help keep food from getting in the small divots and crevices that can be hard to reach, even with a toothbrush or floss. Sealants, when used in combination with healthy oral care, help to protect against the bacterial plaque that causes cavities.
The process dentists use to apply dental sealants is actually pretty simple. The steps below describe a typical sealant application.
- Clean the tooth with pumice paste; then, rinse and dry.
- Apply an etching solution to roughen the surface of the tooth making it easier for the sealant to adhere to it; then, rinse and dry, again.
- Apply the sealant to the biting surface of the tooth; use a curing light to harden the sealant.
After the procedure, your child can brush and floss just like usual!
What Are Fillings?
One of the biggest reasons to invest in sealants for your children’s teeth is the fact that they prevent the need for fillings. So what are fillings?
Fillings are the time-tested method used by dentists to treat cavities. By the time they reach 17, 78% of Americans will have had at least one cavity, according to a report by the U.S. Surgeon General. If cavities are allowed to progress without being filled, the bacteria-induced infection will spread further into your tooth to the nerve-filled sensitive inner pulp tissue.
And when this happens, then there is generally only treatment – a root canal.
Fillings are used to prevent decay from progressing further by doing exactly what their name implies: they fill the hole caused by a cavity.
Fillings come in a variety of materials, but the process your dentist uses to apply a filling is generally pretty much the same regardless of type. Your dentist will be able to advise you on which material will work best for your child.
The process for filling a tooth generally includes:
- A clinical exam of the tooth with an x-ray to determine how far the decay has progressed.
- Anesthetize the tooth; the use of nitrous oxide may be required to help the patient relax.
- Remove the decayed area of the tooth using handheld instruments such as a dental drill.
- Apply an etching solution to the tooth to roughen the surface, helping the filling adhere to the tooth.
- Use a translucent cement to bond the tooth and filling material.
After the procedure, wait for the anesthesia to wear off before drinking hot or cold liquids or eating using the filling.
Should You Opt for Dental Sealants for Your Child?
The short answer is, “Yes.”
Preventative and proactive oral care is the key to great dental health as your child ages. Sealants are one of the most effective ways we have to stop cavities before they begin, saving you money in the long run. (Exceptions include children under the age of 5 who haven’t yet lost their baby-teeth.)
While sealants cost between $30 and $40 per tooth, fillings can each cost $110 to $240 on average. The choice is obvious, but spending $40 on proactive dental care isn’t an option for all parents with all budgets. Luckily, the CDC recognizes what a big difference sealants can make in a child’s dental health future and they promote programs aimed at helping more children get the treatment.
Some schools provide sealant programs to students and the federal government has classified pediatric dental services as an essential health benefit. This means it has to be included in any dental insurance provided as part of the Affordable Care Act. Some local health departments will offer sealant clinics for children, as well.
Heroes Dental, Your Mission Area Pediatric Dentist
At Heroes Dental in Mission, Texas, we know that parents really just want what’s best for their kids. Our pediatric dentists dedicate themselves to helping you find the dental services that will help your child maintain excellent dental health as they grow.