Does your child have a sweet tooth? Is he prone to getting cavities? If so, dental sealants might be an answer. Made of liquid plastic material, a sealant is applied to the surface of the tooth to protect it from decay for up to 10 years.
According to some estimates, as many as 55 million sealants are applied each year in the U.S., most of them on children. Still, other studies show that only about 20 percent of children below the poverty level and only about 40 percent of kids from higher income homes have had sealants. It is not clear why, but some experts point to a simple lack of knowledge.
Dental sealants are typically applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth, the teeth that are most susceptible to decay because they have deeper nooks and crannies and more places for cavity causing bacteria to settle in. The best time to apply a sealant is just after the molars erupt – the first set at around six years old and the second, around 12 years.
In the teeth sealing process, the dentist first cleans the tooth and then applies a special gel on the chewing surface. After a few seconds, the tooth is washed off and dried. The clear or slightly tinted sealant is then painted on and sometimes the dentist may use a light to speed drying.
It is important to remember that a sealant should not replace fluoride and regular dental care for cavity protection. Children should be brushing with a fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day, flossing at least once and seeing their dentist two times each year.
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