Avoiding tooth decay in children is a priority for parents. There are many tools available to help make the accomplishment of this goal possible. Practicing good dental hygiene, which includes brushing and flossing on a regular basis, is the first line of defense. In addition, the use of fluoridated toothpaste and fluoride rinses provides additional benefits in arresting decay.
A preventative measures such as placing sealants on newly erupted permanent teeth is another important step that can be taken. Newly erupted teeth (molars and premolars) often have deep pits and fissures. These deep crevasses make keeping the teeth clean and free of food particles a challenging task. Around the age of six (for first molars) and twelve (for second molars) the permanent teeth will break through the gum tissue and erupt into place. Placement of sealants during this time period is ideal.
The process of placing sealants is simple and stress-free for the patient. Sealants require no drilling and minimal time in the dental chair. The tooth is cleaned, and an acidic, etchant gel material is placed on the tooth so that the surface can be roughened. After the etchant sits on the tooth for a short time, the tooth is washed and dried and prepared for the sealant material to be painted on the tooth. Once the sealant material is on the tooth, it is either chemically or light cured into place. Once the sealant is hardened, the tooth has a smoother, protective coating that seals the surface and keeps it free from harboring food particles.
The sealant material is composed of fairly durable synthetic or semi synthetic material. Once sealants are placed in the mouth, they are fairly unnoticeable. Depending on the specific material used, the sealants may appear clear, white, or slightly tinted in color. Personal habits such as clenching and grinding of teeth will determine the longevity of sealants. The majority of sealants will last from 3-5 years before they will need to be replaced; however, it is not uncommon for some to last much longer than that time period.
Even though sealants are present, there is still a need for consistent personal dental hygiene and regular dental visits. Exams by your family dentist should be performed every 6-12 months so that sealants can be monitored and maintained. Cracks in sealants from wear or breakage would be a perfect environment for food particles to collect and to allow bacteria to deposit their acidic by-product that results in decay. Before decay becomes an issue, prevention is the method to follow to create healthy teeth and smiles for a lifetime.
About the Author
Kendall Wood received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. Kendall is a member of the American Dental Association, the Oregon Dental Association, the Southern Willamette Dental Society, American Dental Society of Anesthesiology, and the American Academy of Implant Dentistry.
He has completed the OBI II training course, moderate IV sedation, and OHSU's maxi implant course. Kendall has completed part I of the fellowship exam for the American Academy of Implant Dentistry and is currently working on completing part II of his implant fellowship credentials. For more information about this topic and many other dental health topics please visit his dental practice website at www.corvallisdentalhealth.com