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How Sealants and Fluoride Prevent Childhood Cavities

A child sits in a dental office smiling

Preventative dental care for children is important, especially amidst financial strains, increased consumption of sugary foods, and disruptions in daily oral hygiene routines. A child's first encounter with caries often paves the way for future occurrences, establishing a worrying trend of recurring dental issues. Notably, children with caries in their primary teeth face a heightened risk of developing caries in their permanent ones. Hence, preventing caries with sealants and fluoride helps ensure children’s long-term dental health and preserve their permanent teeth.

Keep reading to learn more about how sealants and fluoride prevent childhood cavities.

What Are Cavities?

Cavities, also known as dental caries or tooth decay, are areas of damage to the hard surface of teeth caused by bacterially produced acids. These bacteria thrive on sugars and starches left on the teeth after we eat or drink. Over time, the acids produced by these bacteria can erode the enamel, the outermost layer of the tooth, forming tiny holes or cavities. If left untreated, cavities can continue to deepen and penetrate deeper layers of the tooth, eventually leading to pain, infection, and potential tooth loss.

What Are Dental Sealants?

Dental sealants are a preventive measure against cavities, especially for the back teeth or molars. These thin coatings are applied to the chewing surfaces of molars to create a barrier against tooth decay that can last for several years.

By forming a protective shield, sealants effectively block germs and food particles contributing to cavity formation. Studies show that sealants offer robust protection, preventing around 80% of cavities for the initial two years and continuing to shield against approximately 50% for up to four years.

Available in clear, white, or subtly tinted variations, sealants are virtually invisible, ensuring that they do not interfere with a child's appearance or speech when applied.

What Is Fluoride?

Fluoride, a naturally occurring mineral, is integral in preventing tooth decay. Fluoride prevents tooth decay by counteracting the harmful effects of acid-producing bacteria in the mouth. It integrates into the tooth enamel, bolstering its strength and resilience.

Are Dental Sealants and Fluoride Mutually Exclusive?

Dental sealants and fluoride are not mutually exclusive. Sealants create a protective barrier over the grooves of the back teeth, effectively blocking out harmful germs and food particles that contribute to cavity formation. Fluoride, whether present in drinking water or dental products like toothpaste, enhances the tooth enamel to make it more resistant to the corrosive effects of acid produced by bacteria in the mouth.

While sealants primarily act as physical barriers against cavity-causing agents, fluoride works internally to fortify tooth structure. Together, sealants and fluoride provide comprehensive protection against dental decay.

Types of Sealants

A child sits in a dental chair and looking at mirror smiling while a dentist with tools in hand.

The two types of sealants are:

●      Resin-Based Sealants: These sealants come in two varieties: filled and unfilled. Filled sealants, consisting of resins, chemicals, and fillers, boast increased bonding strength and resistance to wear and abrasion due to filler content. Post-placement adjustments may be necessary for filled sealants.

In contrast, unfilled sealants possess a higher ratio of resin to filler material, requiring no adjustments post-application due to their self-occluding nature. With their low viscosity, unfilled sealants effortlessly flow into pits and fissures, ensuring comprehensive coverage and protection against decay.

●      Glass Ionomer Cement (GIC) Fissure Sealants: These are unique polymeric water-soluble acid, silicate glass, and water compositions.

Why Glass Ionomer Cement (GIC) Fissure Sealants Stand Out

The procedure of placing GIC sealants is quick, easy, and remarkably kid-friendly, making it a favorite among young patients.

Your Kids Will Love the GIC Placement Procedure

One of the most notable advantages of GIC sealants is their hydrophilic nature. Unlike resin-based sealants, which require a dry field for optimal placement, GIC sealants can be applied to moist surfaces. This feature is particularly advantageous for young children struggling with cooperation, dental anxiety, or a strong gag reflex.

GIC Sealants Are Flexible

GIC sealants can be placed on partially erupted molars, addressing a significant clinical challenge that resin-based sealants can’t tackle. This flexibility ensures the use of GIC sealants in a wider range of clinical situations.

GIC Sealants Boast Superior Durability

The chemical bonding mechanism of GIC sealants further underscores their efficacy. Through ionic crosslinking, GIC sealants form a stable bond with enamel. This creates a seamless fusion zone between the material and the tooth surface.

The chemical bond is superior to the resin tags utilized in resin-based sealants, as it is less prone to detachment or marginal breakdown over time.

Consequently, GIC sealants offer long-lasting protection against cavity formation, minimizing the risk of margin leakage and subsequent caries development.

GIC Sealants Are Completely Safe

Free from resin monomers and bisphenol A (BPA), GIC sealants alleviate concerns regarding potential health risks associated with these substances.

GIC Sealants Have Superior Antimicrobial Properties

GIC sealants exhibit antimicrobial properties, inhibiting biofilm attachment and preventing bacterial growth on treated tooth surfaces. This antimicrobial action, coupled with the remineralization benefits facilitated by the minerals released from GIC, enhances caries resistance and reduces the risk of secondary caries formation.

How to Take Care of Sealants

Let us discuss essential tips for maintaining your child’s sealants.

Regular Oral Hygiene

Brushing teeth at least twice daily and flossing daily help remove food particles and plaque buildup around the sealant. It’s important to pay close attention to the areas where the sealant meets the tooth surface.

Schedule Routine Dental Checkups

Regular dental checkups are essential for monitoring the condition of your child’s sealants and overall oral health. During these appointments, your dentist will inspect the sealants for any signs of wear or damage and ensure they are still intact. Additionally, your dentist can provide professional cleanings to remove any stubborn plaque or tartar that may have accumulated around the sealants.

Avoid Chewing on Hard Objects

While dental sealants are durable, they are not indestructible. Chewing on hard objects like ice, pens, or fingernails can potentially damage or dislodge the sealant, compromising its protective barrier.

At The Children's Dental Center, we want to make sure your child benefits from quality preventative dental care. Contact us today!

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