Dental sealants are used to prevent tooth decay, most often in children. This thin, protective coating is applied to the surface of the back teeth (premolars and molars) to stop cavities from forming. Sometimes, a sealant can even stop existing tooth decay from progressing into a cavity.
The Centers for Disease Control affirms the importance of sealants for school-aged children in protecting against tooth decay. Though they aren’t a substitute for regular brushing and flossing, dental sealants have been shown to reduce dental decay by 80% when they are applied to molars. Children aged 6-11 who don’t have sealants are three times more likely to have cavities in their back teeth.
Dental decay is the most common childhood illness, with 1 in 5 children suffering from untreated tooth decay. When left untreated, dental caries can progress into painful infection, causing problems eating, sleeping, speaking, and learning. They can also negatively impact nutrition and slow a child’s physical development because of the difficulties of eating. Early treatment for childhood cavities is vital to avoid these problems, which can otherwise become chronic.
Many people misunderstand the causes of cavity development, which occurs as a result of complex processes at the microbial level. Tooth decay is is caused by the presence of the bacteria streptococcus mutans, which breaks down sugars that enter the mouth. This process produces an acid that wears away at tooth enamel.The more sugars that are present in the mouth, the more “food” the bacteria has at its disposal. Gradually, the activity of the s. mutans bacteria will create holes in the teeth, also known as cavities. As the enamel is worn away, the bacteria can lodge more deeply in the teeth.
Dental sealants are like raincoats for the teeth. When a sealant is applied to a cavity, it will cover up the hole so that bacteria and its acid byproduct cannot enter the diseased tooth.
Sealants are not only used to treat cavities; they often help to prevent them from developing in the first place. Because children and teenagers are likely to develop decay in the back teeth (premolars and molars), they are likely candidates for sealants. Sealants act as a protective layer on the teeth during the cavity-prone years, which are between the ages of 6 and 14.
A dental sealant can be easily applied in a single office visit. Once the material is painted onto the tooth enamel, it bonds to the tooth and hardens. The plastic resin covers over the depressions and grooves in the teeth, protecting the enamel from plaque and acids. As long as the sealant stays intact, the tooth will remain protected from decay. It will also hold up well to normal chewing, and often last for up to ten years.
Regular pediatric dental care is essential to the prevention and treatment of childhood dental caries. Once their child’s first tooth has come in, parents are encouraged to schedule a dentist appointment. By scheduling checkups every six months to a year, parents can ensure that their child will receive prompt dental care in the case of a cavity or other oral condition. Our student dentists utilize dental sealants when this additional protective layer is deemed necessary to continuing oral health. Learn about the advantages of receiving pediatric dental care at Penn Dental Medicine.
Parents choose Penn Dental Medicine (PDM) for our low-cost services and strong reputation. Because our offices operate in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania School of Dentistry, we can offer reduced prices for dental services performed. While most children’s preventive dental services are covered by insurance, certain procedures may not be. Our lower prices make it possible for many families in the area to access the care they need, whether for themselves or their children.
PDM’s reputation in the Philadelphia region and nationally make us a preferred provider for patients seeking variety of dental services. At PDM, patients are treated by student dentists who are being trained and guided by the best in the field: our University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine faculty. That means that each patient is only one step away from being treated by some of the field’s most experienced and skilled dentists. With our state-of-the-art technology and facilities, PDM makes use of the latest and best tools available in the field of dentistry.
If you would like to make an appointment for yourself or a family member at PDM, please call us at 215-898-8965. We look forward to serving you!