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Sealants Shield Kids from Cavities

Plastic coatings called dental sealants can help head off cavities in your child's teeth.3 Often sealants can eliminate hiding places for bacteria, protecting children from cavities and reducing the number of fillings needed.1

More than a third of kids ages 12 to 19 have dental sealants, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sealants have helped cut tooth decay among American children, CDC studies show.2

Besides shielding teeth against bacteria, the plastic resin in sealants also guards tooth enamel from acids. Good brushing and flossing helps get rid of food particles and plaque on the smooth surfaces of teeth. But toothbrush bristles can't reach all the way into the depressions, grooves, and pits in some teeth to dislodge food and bacteria.4

These grooves are the main spot for children to develop cavities. Sealants can protect these areas, mostly on the chewing surfaces of your child's back teeth.1

Sealants are usually used on permanent teeth, not baby teeth.5 It takes just a few minutes to seal a tooth:

  • The tooth or teeth to be sealed are cleaned.

  • The chewing surfaces are roughened with an acid solution to help the sealant stick to them.

  • Your dentist or an assistant paints the sealant onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds to the tooth and hardens.

  • A special curing light may be used to help harden the sealant.4

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry stresses these other keys for keeping your child's mouth cavity-free:

  • Gentle twice-daily brushing with a pea-sized or smaller amount of fluoride toothpaste, with special attention to the gum line

  • Cleaning between teeth each day with floss

  • Eating a balanced diet with limited snacks

  • Regularly visiting the dentist3


1"Dental Sealants." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, September 2, 2009. http://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/publications/factsheets/sealants_faq.htm. Accessed 2009.

2"Trends in Oral Health Status-United States, 1988-1994 and 1999-2004." Vital and Health Statistics, Series 11, No. 248. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, April 2007. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_11/sr11_248.pdf. Accessed 2009.

3"Sealants." American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. http://www.aapd.org/publications/brochures/sealants.asp. Accessed 2009.

4"Sealants." American Dental Association. http://ada.org/public/topics/sealants.asp. Accessed 2009.

5"Sealants." National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/Topics/Sealants/. Accessed 2009.

Author: Bruce Beans
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