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Evidence says dental sealants improve children's oral health

Looking for an extra weapon to fight tooth decay in your child? Consider dental sealants.

Thorough brushing and flossing helps remove food particles and plaque from the smooth surfaces of teeth, but toothbrushes can't reach all the way into the depressions and grooves to extract food and plaque. Sealants can help protect these vulnerable areas by "sealing out" plaque and food.

A dental sealant is a plastic material that is usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth — premolars and molars. This plastic resin bonds into the depressions and grooves of the chewing surfaces of back teeth and acts as a barrier, protecting enamel from plaque and acids.

In a recent study published in The Journal of the American Dental Association, school-based sealant programs were lauded as an effective public health approach to preventing dental disease.

Even if your child's school doesn't have a sealant program, you can still get him/her sealants. Sealants are easy for your dentist to apply, and it takes only a few minutes to seal each tooth.

The teeth that will be sealed are cleaned then the chewing surfaces are roughened with an acid solution to help the sealant adhere to the tooth. The sealant is then painted onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens.

As long as the sealant remains intact, the tooth surface will be protected from decay. Sealants hold up well under the force of normal chewing and usually last several years before a reapplication is needed. During your regular dental visits, your dentist will check the condition of the sealants and reapply them when necessary.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

11/9/2009

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