While brushing, flossing, and professional dental cleanings go a long way, they are not enough to fully protect your child’s teeth against decay. As an extra measure of prevention, there are two other tools that go a long way in preserving your child’s oral health: fluoride and sealants.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring element that has been shown highly effective in the prevention of tooth decay. It protects the smooth surfaces of the teeth and makes them naturally more resistant to decay. It also helps coat the smooth surfaces of the teeth, repairing very small areas of decay before they have an opportunity to become more invasive.
Though fluoride is naturally found in many water sources, it typically does not meet the recommended levels necessary to prevent tooth decay. That is why many water utilities make the decision to add fluoride to public tap water. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately two-thirds of all public water sources are currently enhanced with fluoride. In addition, most toothpastes are fluoridated to meet American Dental Association standards.
If your water does not contain fluoride, speak with your dentist about fluoride treatments for your child. Fluoride can be administered in many different ways, whether through a gel treatment, or as a prescription mouth rinse or chewable tablet.
About the time children start grade school they also hit another important milestone – the loss of the first tooth. This is an exciting time for children and also a sign that the first permanent tooth will soon make its debut. Right away, children are at-risk of tooth decay that could lead to lifelong consequences – especially along the chewing surfaces of molars, where food can get trapped in the pits and grooves of the teeth. Fortunately, there is a way to protect vulnerable teeth and shield them from the germs, food and debris that can lead to decay.
Sealants are invisible protective barriers designed to protect newly erupted molars from plaque and germs in areas where toothbrush bristles do not easily brush them away. They are made of a clear film that is painted onto the surface of the tooth. Once it bonds and hardens, the sealant shields against decay for up to 10 years – long enough for children to learn and begin practicing responsible oral hygiene habits.
Ideally, children should get sealants as soon as 6-year and 12-year molars appear. This usually first occurs sometime between the ages of 5 and 7 and again between the ages of 11 and 14. With decades of use and research, sealants have proven to be both safe and effective in preventing childhood decay. This not only helps to preserve a child’s natural teeth, but it can also save money on the cost of fillings, crowns, and other restorations in the future.
Does Your Child Need Fluoride Treatment or Sealants?
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, fluoride and sealants together are capable of preventing almost all tooth decay. For more information about fluoride and sealants or to find out if they might benefit your child, schedule an appointment to speak with your dentist.