Prevention Through Sealants

Children’s teeth frequently have imperfections that occur during tooth development. The most common of these irregularities are deep pits and fissures.

These pits and fissures rapidly fill up with bacteria and food when a child eats. Because even the narrowest toothbrush bristle is too thick to reach into pits and fissures, bacteria and food cannot be removed by brushing, flossing or rinsing. Bacteria rapidly act on food and form acids strong enough to weaken and destroy tooth enamel. Destruction of the tooth continues, forming a cavity. When this occurs, the tooth must be repaired.

Tooth decay occurs much faster in children than in adults. To prevent cavities, detection and treatment of an imperfection must occur as early as possible.

Special shaded plastic materials, which have proved safe and effective for children and adults, can be painted into pits and fissures and bonded firmly into place. Pits and fissures are effectively “sealed” and bacteria and food cannot accumulate. Sealants typically last for many years with proper care. Due to chewing, tooth grinding, or the abrasive nature of some foods, such as ice cubes, crunchy candy or sticky foods, sealants may be dislodged or damaged. In such cases new sealant material can be applied to repair or replace the original sealant. Sealants have proved to be beneficial where pits and fissures are at risk of decay. Of course, brushing, flossing, a balanced diet and regular dental visits are still essential for a bright, healthy smile.

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FACT FISH: About 92% of American children have not received dental sealants.