Category Archives: Children’s Dental

Dental Sealants: Benefits of Sealants

When I should place dental sealants on my child’s teeth?

So you are a concerned mom who took her child to the dentist for a checkup and exam. You were told about the many benefits of sealants on baby teeth. Your child’s dentist explained to you how safe and effective dental sealants are. They might’ve even told you have that if you have dental insurance, then dental sealants are a covered procedure. But is getting sealants really the right thing to do? Or does it make more sense to just leave these teeth alone? Or place an actual filling on them instead?

What are dental sealants?

Sealants are a tooth-colored plastic coating dental restoration. They are considered to be preventive treatment, meaning they don’t require any actual tooth removal and are completely reversible.  They basically acts to seal and protect high risk teeth in children.

Sealants are typically placed into deep groves located on back teeth, particularly molar teeth. Molar teeth have deep groves that are harder to clean and are vulnerable to trapping food and developing cavities. Sealants cover these groves and reduce risks of developing cavities on these teeth. Sealants are typically applied at 5 to 7 years of age to adult first molars and then at 10 to 12 years of age to adult second molars. Some dentists also apply sealants to baby teeth as well.

Dental sealants are mainly used for children rather than adults. This is because it can be harder for children to access their back teeth and clean them properly. As an adult this becomes less of an issue, so sealants are not very useful for adults in general. Sealants usually last for only a few years and by the time you are an adult, your sealant has most likely disappeared. But don’t stress yourself, the purpose of dental sealants is to protect your teeth while you are still in your growing phase.

Benefits of receiving dental sealants

Sealants protect children’s most susceptible teeth against cavity bacteria

Back teeth, the molars and bicuspids, have deep groves on their chewing surface. These tend to trap lots of food and bacteria. As a result they are very susceptible to developing cavities. Children are particularly at higher risks for developing cavities on these back teeth:

  • Children are more likely to neglect cleaning their furthest located teeth. This is usually because it is harder to gain access and place the toothbrush in this region since their jaws are still not fully developed.
  • Most children have a sweet tooth and consume sugary products such as candies, chocolate and sodas. This makes their teeth more vulnerable to tooth decay as compared to adult.

Dental sealants come into play here. Children stand to get the most from benefits of sealants. A well placed sealant can cover deeper teeth groves until you child is old enough where they can brush and clean these areas on their own.

Dental sealants don’t damage your teeth

Sealants are generally favored over fillings as a preventive treatment because they don’t require any actual removal of tooth structure. So another benefits of sealants is that unlike fillings, they are completely reversible. Even the most conservative filling will require some drilling and tooth removal. Unfortunately this can be the beginning of a lifetime of problems with the said tooth.

Sealants are an excellent way to help protect teeth without actually damaging it. If your child’s has deep teeth groves which place them at higher risk for cavity formation but has no actual tooth decay, then sealants are preferred to fillings. Keep in mind that once a cavity forms, then you can no longer perform a sealant. You must place an actual filling instead if there is actual tooth decay involved. Sealants are only a preventive measure, and they will not work when there is an actual cavity in place.

Behavioral benefits of sealants on children

Benefits of sealants actually go beyond simply protecting teeth against cavity formation. Your experiences as a child is what makes you into the patient you are as an adult. Experiencing a visit where your teeth are treated without any pain or a needle is a great way for children to build a relationship with their dentist.

A pleasant sealant placement appointment can help them become more comfortable with their dentist. These type of visits also encourage children to improve their oral hygiene routine as well as brush and floss better to help avoid having to get more similar dental work done in the future. Especially ones that unlike sealants, will involve getting a shot!

NEXT >> When I should NOT place dental sealants on my child’s teeth?

Deciding on placing sealants or not

When is the Best Time for Your Childs First Dental Visit: At 6 Months to a Year

You noticed your child beginning to develop his or her first baby tooth. Congratulations! Now you have to consider when to take him or her for the first wellness dental checkup. Most children have their first baby tooth come out at around six months old. By the time they are two years old usually all baby teeth have already come out. Most dental societies recommend bringing your child in for their first checkup visit between six months to a year of age. Does this really make sense? Why not just wait until they are two or three when all their baby teeth are out before taking them in for a more comprehensive check-up instead?

Click here to learn more about when baby teeth come out or fall off

Pros of Taking Your Child for their First Visit at 6 Months to a Year

1. To review your child’s oral hygiene, habits and diet. There are a lot of important topics that a good dentist or pediatric dentist will examine and review with you on your child’s first visit.

  • Obviously they will be checked for any cavities or abnormalities in their teeth eruption patterns. While rare, some kids do develop cavities on their baby teeth within just months of the teeth coming out due to poor diet or genetic problems.
  • The dentist can review how you are cleaning their teeth and advise you on proper use of hygiene products
  • He or she can review their diet, sugar intake and evaluate the plaque buildup to determine their risk levels
  • Habits such as teeth grinding, thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, etc. will be examined and discussed
  • Your dentist will also be on the look out for any medical issues that may have an oral manifestation

As you can see there can be quite of bit to discuss regarding oral health despite your child not having that many teeth in their tiny mouths!

2. They can be accessed for serious dental conditions such as nursing bottle syndrome. We do unfortunately run into very young children who have multiple infected teeth and almost every single time it is due to nursing bottle syndrome. Children who sleep overnight with a bottle containing sugary liquids, such as juices, expose their teeth to harmful sugars the entire night. This is very dangerous and can lead to aggressive cavities on a whole bunch of their teeth. Your dentist will evaluate your child to ensure that this isn’t occurring and review their dietary habits. Another detrimental condition that can adversely affect teeth even at a young age is thumb-sucking or tongue-thrusting. These bad habits can lead to the child having an open bite which would require years of orthodontic work to fix. Your dentist can discuss these with you and offer possible early interventions to help avoid or minimize the damage if caught early enough.

3. Children’s baby teeth are actually important. Even though baby teeth only last for 5 to 10 years (depending on their location) they are still very important for many reasons.

  • Children need their baby teeth to eat, speak and to build up their confidence while growing up
  • Baby teeth maintain spaces for the adult teeth to come out correctly when they are ready to do so. Losing multiple baby teeth almost always means that your child will have crowding issues and will require braces to correct their bite.
  • Baby teeth can  develop cavities just like adult teeth can. They can similarly become infected or cause serious pain. And keep in mind that if a baby tooth becomes infected early on, say when your child is 1 or 2 years old, that tooth still has to last them another 4 to 9 years which is a very long time.

As you can see baby teeth are important and you definitely need to intervene early to fix any problems with baby teeth or face dealing with pain and difficult treatments including extractions or baby root canals known as pulpotomies.

NEXT >> When is the Best Time for Your Childs First Dental Visit: At 2 to 3 Years

When is the Best Time for Your Childs First Dental Visit: How to Decide

Saving vs. Removing Baby Teeth: Saving Baby Teeth

Baby teeth come out earlier on in life and are supposed to last you until the adult teeth are ready to come out and replace them. The front baby teeth last until 6 to 8 years of age while the back ones need to last until 11 to 13. Should one of these baby teeth become infected you can opt to either save or remove it. Saving an infected baby tooth would require a baby root canal, pulpotomy, covered by a pre-made crown. Removing the baby tooth would basically involve pulling the tooth and waiting until the grown up tooth replaces it. Given that the baby teeth are only going to be there for a short time is it really worth saving them? Or is it best to remove a bad baby teeth as it is after all a temporary tooth?

Click here for a chart of baby teeth eruption and exfoliation times

Pros of Saving Baby Teeth

1. Children need their baby teeth to chew and speak properly. Children have only twenty baby teeth in their mouth so losing one can really affect their ability to chew properly. In fact losing a single molar baby tooth can make them lose over half of their chewing ability on that side on their mouth! Children need their baby teeth just like adult need theirs.

  • They need these teeth to chew food.
  • Missing a baby tooth can adversely affect their speech.
  • Losing a baby tooth can negatively impact a child’s confidence during a critical time of development.

2. It can be less painful and traumatic to save rather than to pull the tooth. Removing a baby tooth can be more painful than saving it especially if the tooth is not loose yet. To remove a bad baby tooth your dentist needs to fully numb up the region which will require several shots and can hurt a lot. Even if the tooth gets fully numbed up there is still a lot of pressure being exerted during the extraction which can be frightening to most children. As a result children can become quite traumatized after having a baby tooth removed.

3. Removing baby teeth can result in crooked adult teethA very important role of baby teeth is to preserve the space required for the grown up teeth to come out when they are ready. If you lose baby tooth earlier on then there is a good possibility that your other teeth will collapse into this space. This could prevent the adult tooth from coming out correctly in its respective position and cause crowding of multiple teeth.

  • You need your front baby teeth until around 5-6 years of age.
  • You need your back baby teeth until around 10-11 years of age.

Children who lose their baby teeth are at a much higher risk of needing braces and orthodontic work to correct your bite in the future. Should your child lose a tooth well in advance of the adult tooth coming out talk to your dentist about making them a space maintainer to help hold their teeth in place and possibly avoid the need for braces and orthodontic work in the future.

NEXT >> Saving vs. Removing Baby Teeth: Removing baby teeth

Saving vs. Removing Baby Teeth: How to Decide