Did you know that untreated tooth decay is a problem among roughly one-third of the world’s population? According to a recent study published in the Journal of Dental Research, more than 2.4 billion people are suffering from this oral health disease, with about 190 million new cases occurring every year. These numbers translate to more people suffering dental cavities and gum disease.

These findings are more concerning when you realize that the problem is preventable, especially in children. Your dentist can recommend a number of ways to keep your child’s teeth healthy and prevent the development of cavities, such as dental cleaning sessions and fluoride treatments. These basic preventative procedures also cost a fraction of the treatments needed for actual tooth decay and cavities, oral infections and tooth loss. Another basic preventive measure against tooth decay is the use of sealants.

What are sealants, and why do children need them?

Sealants are protective plastic films applied on the teeth to act as barriers against food particles and plaque, which are the origins of tooth decay. These are painted onto the teeth at the back of the mouth (the molars and premolars) because they are more prone to cavities. The material covers the grooves or depressions on the surfaces of these teeth that are difficult to clean with toothbrushes and floss.

In the U.S., there is still a lot of room for improvement in terms of each state’s dental sealant programs. Research from The Pew Charitable Trusts found that many states are not enforcing the right policies or funding the right programs to provide sealants for low-income or high-risk children. North Carolina got a D rating, and since it’s one of the states with a barely passing score, it’s up to parents to proactively see to their children’s dental health; something that sealants can be a great help with.

When should children get them?

After the child gets permanent molars and premolars is the best time to have sealants applied, which can provide protection for up to 10 years. Sealants, however, may also be recommended for baby teeth that have too many grooves or depressions. A pediatric dentist in Charlotte, NC like the professionals at McNulty & Dancausse General Dentistry can examine your child’s teeth and advise you accordingly.

Take note, though, that having sealants applied is not enough. You have to be particular with oral hygiene and other aspects of dental health, too, so you can effectively prevent tooth decay and cavities.

Sources:

One-Third of the World’s Population Suffers From Untreated Tooth Decay, TIME

States Stalled on Dental Sealant Programs, The Pew Charitable Trusts

Sealants, MouthHealthy