A child’s dental health begins long before their first tooth erupts, but the process definitely intensifies once their baby teeth start to come in. Baby teeth aren’t as strong as permanent teeth, and young children still have to master the art of brushing and flossing their teeth, which takes some time. That means they’re prone to cavities.
At Eric Klein DDS & Associates in Norwalk, Connecticut, Dr. Klein and his team provide family dental services, including care for the youngest members of your family. Key to helping children enjoy a life of good dental health is the use of dental sealants and fluoride treatments. Here’s how they work.
Dental sealants are thin coatings of a material that, when painted on the biting surfaces of the back molars, can prevent cavities. They’re most often made of composite resin, a tooth-colored material that protects against enamel damage and decay, but they can also be formed from a glass ionomer or polyacid resin material. Children ages 6-11 without sealants have almost three times more cavities on their first molars than those who get sealants.
Sealants flow into the deep grooves and pits of the back teeth and harden immediately, acting as a barrier to protect tooth enamel from plaque and acid. They’re also long-lasting, remaining intact sometimes for years before needing to be reapplied. They’re most effective when used around age 6, when the first set of molars comes in, and around age 12, when the second set erupts.
Sealants are a quick, easy, and painless treatment — kid-friendly — that prevents most of the cavities children get in the hard-to-reach back teeth, where 9 in 10 cavities occur. After application, they protect against about 80% of cavities for two years and against 50% for up to four years. That helps eliminate the need for invasive and expensive procedures such as dental fillings and crowns.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral, and many municipalities add it to the water supply to help prevent tooth decay. Dental providers also use fluoride as a treatment method to strengthen teeth and reduce the risk of decay.
Before we can talk about how fluoride works, we need to understand the relationship between teeth and minerals. Every day, your teeth’s hard enamel shell gains and loses minerals. You lose minerals when bacteria feed on sugars and food debris in your mouth and form acids, which eat away at the enamel.
You gain minerals — like fluoride, calcium, and phosphate — when you ingest food and water that contain them. When you lose more than you gain, you’re vulnerable to tooth decay.
Dental fluoride makes your enamel more resistant to bacterial acid, and it can reverse early decay. You can help mineralize your teeth by consuming fluoride and by using fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash.
Dr. Klein can also apply fluoride to your child’s teeth in the form of:
The American Dental Association (ADA) cautions about using too much fluoride with infants and young children. This is because too much fluoride can lead to enamel fluorosis — faint white streaks that appear on the teeth’s enamel during a child’s developmental years, even before the teeth erupt through the gums. Dr. Klein can advise you on the specifics.
Dental sealants and fluoride, as we’ve seen, present a number of benefits. They:
Dental sealants and fluoride are a valuable part of your child’s dental hygiene routine.
To learn more about sealants and fluoride, or to schedule a consultation with our team, call Eric Klein DDS & Associates at 203-849-8633, or book online with us today.