Dental sealants are clear coatings applied to the surfaces of a child’s molars to prevent the development of tooth decay. They work by preventing food and plaque from resting in the grooves and crevices of molars – an area especially susceptible to cavities. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, nearly 1 in 3 U.S. children ages 6 to 12 currently have sealants on their teeth.

Did you know…

that sealants can last as long as 5 to 10 years pediatric dental patients? Depending on a child’s oral development and risk factors for tooth decay, sealants may be applied to the teeth as young as age 6. It is at this time that the first molars typically appear. Additional molars erupt at approximately age 12. If possible, sealants should be applied to a child’s teeth immediately after any molar has appeared to reduce the risk of early decay.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will dental sealants affect the feel or appearance of my child’s teeth?

Sealants bond directly to the teeth, where they harden to a clear or tooth-colored coat. This makes them virtually undetectable to others. Though it is normal to feel new sealants with the tongue, most children quickly adapt to their presence.

What will my child experience when getting sealants?

The process of getting sealants is fast and painless. The tooth is cleaned before the dentist paints the sealant onto the enamel. The sealant will immediately harden, acting as a barrier between bacteria and the chewing surface of the teeth. In most cases, sealants will last several years before needing to be reapplied. However, regular visits to the dentist will be necessary to monitor the condition of the sealants and examine their effectiveness.

Will sealants prevent all cavities?

While sealants are extremely effective for preventing tooth decay in children, they do not replace other forms of preventative oral health care. Children should still brush and floss each day using a fluoridated toothpaste. Regular dental exams and a balanced diet low in sugar are also essential for good long-term oral health.

Preventative care is a foundation of dentistry. The American Dental Association recommends visiting your dentist regularly – usually about twice yearly – for full cleanings, examinations, and consultations for potential treatment. Professional dental cleanings help remove built-up plaque that is not removable using conventional brushing and flossing. Often, dentists are also capable of identifying potential problems that patients are not yet able to see or feel. When you maintain regular preventative dental appointments, you can stave off decay and gum disease, as well as identify the beginnings of oral health problems before they become severe.

Did you know…

that Americans are less and less likely to visit the dentist as they age? Data from the Centers for Disease Control reports that only 57 percent of Americans over age 65 visited the dentist in 2010. That compares to about 61 percent adults under age 65 and about 79 percent of children ages 2 to 17. Nonetheless, it is important to visit the dentists for cleanings and exams regardless of how long has passed since your most recent dental appointment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I really need to have my teeth professionally cleaned?

Yes. Even if you brush and floss after every meal and before bed, bacteria-harboring plaque can accumulate in the tiniest crevices, grooves and pits. Overtime, the teeth will begin to decay in those areas, which may result in pain and partial or total tooth loss.

What should I expect at my cleaning and exam consultation?

Your cleaning and consultation will consist of a visible examination of the teeth and gums. If you haven’t been to the dentist in a while, you may also require x-rays for a more comprehensive view of your teeth. You’ll also consult with your dentist about any oral health problems you may have been having or questions that you may have. The cleaning will follow, during which a dental hygienist will use special instruments to remove hardened plaque from your teeth. Finally, your teeth will be polished before your dentist discusses any treatment recommendations he or she may have for you.

What types of guidelines should I follow after my visit?

In between dental cleanings and consultations, be sure to maintain good oral habits at home. This includes daily flossing and brushing after meals. It’s also important to drink fluoridated water and use a fluoridated toothpaste.

General dentistry encompasses a broad range of diseases and disorders of the oral and maxillofacial region. Everyone should see a general dentist for routine oral health examinations, twice-yearly cleanings, and treatment of routine oral health complications, such as minor tooth decay. General dentistry is as much about prevention as it is about treatment. Patients who visit a general dentist can expect professional oral health care, as well as education and advisement about self-care between office visits.

Did you know…

that the American Dental Association recommends that every American visit a general dentist a minimum of one time every six months? Doing so can aid in the detection of decay, oral disease and other dental health problems before the progress and become severe. If you are at risk for certain complications or have a history or periodontal disease and advanced decay, you may need to visit your general dentist on a more frequent basis. Patients who visit their dentists regularly and as recommended are more likely to retain their natural teeth and enjoy a lifetime of good oral health.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to visit a general dentist?

Yes. Even if you are not currently experiencing any symptoms of tooth decay or gum disease, it is important to visit your dentist for a thorough examination and cleaning. Despite daily brushing and flossing, your teeth can still accumulate tartar that can harbor bacteria. These bacteria can lead to gum disease and tooth decay if not professionally removed at your dentist’s office.

What should I expect during my dentist visit?

Your visit will begin with a general inspection of the condition of your teeth. If you have not been to the dentist in a while, your dentist may order x-rays. An oral hygienist will then use special metal instruments to gently scrape away tartar along your gum line. Later, your dentist will review your x-rays and discuss any symptoms you may have been experiencing. He or she will then make a recommendation for treatment (if applicable) and answer any questions you may have.

Are there any special instructions I need to follow after seeing my dentist?

Based on the results of your dental check-up, your general dentist may recommend that you return for treatment or follow a special at-home oral care plan. You may also be referred to a dental specialist for treatment of advanced oral health conditions.

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