Did you know?
One of the best ways to protect a child’s teeth from tooth decay is with dental sealants
Dental sealants protect the teeth through the cavity-prone years, ages six to 14, when back teeth are first susceptible to decay. Sealants provide extra protection on childrens teeth until they learn how to do a better job of brushing and flossing.
Sealants act as barriers, protecting the teeth against decay-causing bacteria. The sealants are usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (premolars and molars) where decay occurs most often.
Applying dental sealants is a simple, painless procedure that’s also inexpensive compared to filling a cavity.
Just the facts
- Dental Sealants are a clear plastic material, professionally applied to the back teeth to prevent cavities.
- 90% of children’s tooth decay occurs on tooth surfaces with pits and fissures. Sealants do a great job of preventing tooth decay on those kinds of surfaces.
- Your child can benefit from sealants applied around six years of age, when first permanent molars erupt.
Questions and Answers
What are sealants?
Sealants are made of a white or clear resin material. They help shield bacteria which causes decay on the surface of the back teeth.
How can sealants prevent decay?
The sealant material bonds to the chewing surface of the back teeth, forming a protective barrier covering the depressions and grooves (pits and fissures) of the molars.
Sealants prevent bacteria from nestling into the grooves of the teeth AND they seal out any food sources from the deep pits and fissures of molar teeth.
Why are sealants necessary?
Because the depressions and grooves (pits and fissures) on the back teeth are impossible to keep clean. The tooth brush bristles cannot reach deep into them. These depressions and grooves are snug places for food and plaque to hide. By coating the grooves with a thick covering of sealant material, plaque and food is kept out, decereasing the chances of decay.
Which teeth are suitable for sealants?
First and second molars are most likely to benefit from sealant applications. It is best to seal these molars right after they have just erupted catching them before decay sets in. First molars generally appear at around six years of age and second molars at about 12 years of age. Children between the ages of six and 14 benefit most from sealants.
How are sealants applied?
After an examination, it is determined which teeth can be sealed. Applying sealants is very simple and painless. First, the teeth are cleaned. Then in preparation for the sealant material, the teeth are dabbed with a very mild solution similar in strength to vinegar or lemon juice. This will roughen the tooth surface slightly so the sealant will bond properly to the tooth and ensure a clean tooth surface. After the tooth has been prepared, the resin sealant material is painted onto the tooth. It will flow into the grooves of the tooth and hardens in about 30 seconds. Afterwards, the bacteria cannot reach the pits and grooves.
Have sealants been thoroughly tested?
Yes. Children around the world have had their teeth sealed in clinical studies. These studies have proven sealants to be effective, easy to apply, inexpensive and nontoxic.
Are sealants covered by dental insurance?
Yes! Most dental insurance plans offer coverage for up to 100% of the cost of placing a dental sealant. For information specific to your dental insurance plan, please speak with a member of my staff or your dental insurance company.
How long will dental sealants last?
Sealants will chip or break off if you regularly chew on ice or hand candies (you can also break a tooth doing that!) Sealant application can last for as long as you are careful not to bite into things that are not foods. They should be checked regularly and reapplied when the appear to have worn off. My goal is to send your child off to college cavity free and with intact sealants to protect their teeth into the future!
Cough syrup and cavities
It’s that time of year when coughs, colds and flu can make your life miserable. And like most people, you’ll probably reach for an over-the-counter medication to ease your symptoms. But did you know that spoonful of medicine could add tooth decay to your list of side effects?
Many cough drops and liquid medications contain a variety of ingredients that make your teeth more susceptible to decay:
- Ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup and sucrose contribute to decay when the bacteria in your mouth feed on the sugars, breaking them down and forming acids that attack the enamel of your teeth.
- Ingredients such as citric acid can wear down the enamel of your teeth. In addition, some antihistamine syrups contain low pH levels and high acidity, which can be a dangerous combination for your teeth.
- The addition of alcohol in some popular cold and cough syrups also has a drying effect on the mouth. Saliva helps to naturally rinse the sugars and acids away from your teeth – so with less saliva present, the sugars and acids remain in the mouth even longer, leading to greater risk for decay.
These risks can be magnified if medication is taken before bedtime. The effects of taking liquid medication before bedtime aren’t much different than drinking juice or soda before bedtime – because you produce less saliva while you sleep, sugar and acids remain in contact with the teeth longer, increasing your risk for decay.
What’s the remedy?
There are things you can do to lessen the effects of the sugars and acids in liquid medication.
- Take liquid medication at meal times instead of bedtime so that more saliva is produced to rinse away the sugars and acids.
- Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste after taking medication.
- Rinse your mouth well with water or chew sugar-free gum after taking liquid medication.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Even though they are temporary, your child’s baby teeth are important, and are still susceptible to cavities. Tooth decay in infants and toddlers is often referred to as Baby Bottle Tooth Decay, or Early Childhood Caries. Children need strong, healthy teeth to chew their food, speak and have a good-looking smile. Their first teeth also help make sure their adult teeth come in correctly. It’s important to start infants off with good oral care to help protect their teeth for decades to come.
What causes Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay most often occurs in the upper front teeth, but other teeth may also be affected.
There are many factors which can cause tooth decay. One common cause is the frequent, prolonged exposure of the baby’s teeth to drinks that contain sugar (yes, that means milk!). Tooth decay can occur when the baby is put to bed with a bottle, or when a bottle is used as a pacifier for a fussy baby.
Tooth decay is a disease that can begin with cavity-causing bacteria being passed from the mother (or primary caregiver) to the infant. These bacteria are passed through the saliva. When the mother puts the baby’s feeding spoon in her mouth, or cleans a pacifier in her mouth, the bacteria can be passed to the baby.
If your infant or toddler does not receive an adequate amount of fluoride, they may also have an increased risk for tooth decay. The good news is that decay is preventable.
Preventing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
- Try not to share saliva with the baby through common use of feeding spoons or licking pacifiers. After each feeding, wipe your child’s gums with a clean, damp gauze pad or washcloth.
- When your child’s teeth come in, brush them gently with a child-size toothbrush and water or a toothbrush dipped in fluoride rinse.
- Brush the teeth with a smear amount of FLUORIDE toothpaste from the ages of 2 to 6.
- Supervise brushing until your child can be counted on to brush every surface – usually not before he or she is 7 or 8!
- Place only formula, milk or breastmilk in bottles, NEVER with liquids such as sugar water, juice, coconut water or soft drinks.
- Infants should finish their bedtime and naptime bottles before going to bed.
- If your child uses a pacifier, provide one that is clean—don’t dip it in sugar or honey.
- Encourage your child to drink from a cup by his/her first birthday.
- Encourage healthy eating habits.
When your child’s first tooth appears and no later than their 1st birthday, schedule the first well-check visit with a pediatric dentist. Treat the first dental visit as you would a well-baby checkup with the child’s physician. Remember: starting early is the key to a lifetime of good dental health.
Parents often ask about nutrition for their young children. My Plate is an excellent resource for nutritional information.
The mouth and face of a child or young adult can be easily injured if the proper precautions are not used while participating in sports or recreational activities. In fact, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of the 7 million sports- and recreation-related injuries that occur each year are sustained by children as young as 5 years old. Last year, the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation (NYSSF) forecasted that more than 3 million teeth would be knocked out in youth sporting events. They also reported that athletes who don’t wear mouth guards are 60 times more likely to damage their teeth. Yet, in a survey* commissioned by the AAO, 67% of parents admitted that their children do not wear a mouth guard during organized sports. This raises a question: if mouth guards offer a simple and relatively inexpensive solution to help dramatically decrease the risk of oral injuries, why aren’t more kids wearing them?
The AAO survey* found that 84% of children do not wear mouth guards while playing organized sports because they are not required to wear them, even though they may be required to wear other protective materials, such as helmets and shoulder pads. At a time when a good football helmet or hockey stick may cost $200 each, mouth guards can be one of the least expensive pieces of protective equipment available. Not only do mouth guards save teeth, they help protect jaws.
An effective mouth guard holds teeth in place, resists tearing and allows for normal speech and breathing. It should cover the teeth and, depending on the patient’s bite, also the gums. Your dental professional can recommend the best mouth guard for every sports activity. A properly fitted mouth guard can prevent many accidents and traumatic injuries.
The dental experts at the ASD, AAPD, AAOMS, AAO and ADA urge athletes, parents/caregivers and coaches to be proactive as they head out this spring and stay safe on the field. The ASD, AAPD, AAOMS, AAO, and ADA dental experts offer these important tips:
- Wear a mouth guard when playing contact sports. Mouth guards can help prevent injury to a person’s jaw, mouth and teeth and they are significantly less expensive than the cost to repair an injury. Dentists and dental specialists can make customized mouth guards, which provide the best fit. Other less-expensive options are the boil and bite mouthguards, which are softened in boiling water to fit the mouth, and stock mouth guards, which are ready-to-wear but often don’t fit well.
- Wear a helmet. Helmets absorb the energy of an impact and help prevent damage to the head.
- Wear protective eyewear. Eyes are extremely vulnerable to damage, especially when playing sports.
- Wear a face shield to avoid damage to the delicate bones around the eyes, nose and jaw. Hockey pucks, basketballs and racquetballs can cause severe facial damage at any age.
Is your child afraid of loud sounds, crowds or has other sensory integration issues? Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum hosts special events for your child. Each event is held prior to the museum normal opening hours (you have a quiet museum to yourself). Events are free of charge and siblings/family members are all welcome. Check out the flyer below or email me for more information. See you there!
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Welcome to the website for Dr. Gretchen K. Henson. Please feel free to leave a comment or question, the doctor reads each message and will respond personally. Remember, all it takes is 2 minutes twice a day to brush your children’s teeth. Involved parents make all the difference! Thank you for all that you do to keep your children healthy.