By Susan Fitzgerald
When your child smiles, all is right with the world.
And when they hurt, you hurt.
You can’t save them from everything, but you can protect them against the pain that comes from tooth decay. Regular brushing is the first defense. But teeth get a big boost in preventing decay from a protective coating applied right on the teeth. It’s called a dental sealant.
A good time to schedule sealants with your dentist is when your child’s permanent teeth start coming in, around age 6. The dentist or dental assistant brushed a gel-like substance onto the teeth, especially the molars in the back.
Molars have many tiny areas on the surface that can trap food and create cavities. Brushing won’t clean them all. Dental sealants close off those areas and keep out food particles and germs.
It’s a short, easy process that happens at the end of a regular cleaning. No scary, noisy tools are involved. The sealant provides anywhere from five to 10 years of protection. Your dentist can keep an eye on it during checkups and advise when it should be reapplied.
Best of all, sealants can cut dental disease in half.Oregon Health Plan covers sealants for children age 15 and under. Ask your dentist about this benefit.
Your child may feel the sealant, because it makes the top surfaces of teeth very smooth. But it’s so thin that all anyone else might notice is some extra shine.
The sealant is no substitute for regular brushing with fluoride toothpaste and flossing. But together, they go a long way toward your child having a healthy mouth and a beaming smile.