We all want to do our best to protect our children's teeth from the risks of decay, but other than ensuring they brush their teeth properly every day and avoid too much sugary food and sweet drinks, what else can parents do?
One treatment that is becoming popular that helps to protect children's teeth is the use of fissure sealants. What dentists call 'fissures' are actually the natural grooves and pits that make up the biting surface of children's teeth. It is these deep grooves in the teeth that are especially at risk from decay. Quite often small food particles and bacterial residue can get stuck here and a film of dental plaque can build up in these crevices that are particularly difficult to remove with brushing.
What fissure sealants do is to provide a hard-wearing plastic coating over the surface of the teeth to protect the grooves in the biting surface from decay. The sealants are applied over the permanent back teeth – the molars and premolars that are used extensively for heavy chewing. Your dentist will first check the back teeth for any existing decay and remove this before treatment. If the cavity is small then a sealant restoration will be used to fill the cavity.
First teeth, or milk teeth, are not normally treated with fissure sealants, however if they have been severely affected by decay it may be necessary to prevent damage happening to the underlying adult tooth. It is wise to look at having this treatment done once the adult back teeth have broken through the gums, usually at around age 6.
How Fissure Sealant is applied
There is no need to worry about the procedure. The treatment is completely painless on decay-free teeth and your child will not need to have an anaesthetic to have the fissure sealant applied.
First of all the surface of the tooth to be treated is cleaned and polished. An etching gel is applied to the surface of the tooth. This will allow the sealant to stick to the tooth surface and give an air-tight bond. The area around the tooth is kept dry and free of saliva during the procedure and sometimes a lightweight rubber sheet is carefully placed around the tooth to help keep it dry.
The fissure sealant is then pained over the prepared tooth surface. The sealant is applied in liquid form and this allows it to settle and fill up the pits and grooves of the tooth surface. The sealant is then dried and set using a targeted blue light. This takes only a few seconds so it is not too uncomfortable for your child to experience. The sealant used may be white in colour or completely clear, so once sealed, it will look completely natural.
Should your dentist detect some early signs of decay before treatment, this will be removed with the use of a very small fine headed drill. The groove or pit that shows decay will be drilled to widen it and remove decay and depending on how much decay is discovered, your child may need an anaesthetic. Shallow decay can be removed without the use of an anaesthetic and is quite painless for your child.
Once the decay has been completely removed, then your dentist will perform a sealant restoration. This is the same process as for the fissure sealant, the only difference is that an underlying layer of filling material is applied. This is tooth-coloured so will not look like a silver filling. Having a sealant restoration or fissure sealant treatment will greatly reduce the risk of decay across the biting surface of your child's teeth. The sealant only covers the biting surface of the tooth, so parents must be aware that the sides of the tooth will still be vulnerable to decay. This is why regular and careful brushing is still a top priority to reduce the risk of decay. For more info visit our website.