Tooth decay is the most common oral disease among all types of individuals and can be seen early on in children and teenagers. The grooves of their premolars and molars are prone to infection, and so, there is a need for dental sealants — resin coatings that shield the depressions of teeth to prevent further decay. To raise awareness of childhood caries and their prevention, the ADA has declared sealants as the focus of National Children’s Dental Health Month this February.
For children, sealants serve as a safe, quick and painless method to implement a protective shield onto teeth. A clean tooth will have a gentle gel etch applied, rinsed and then dried. The sealant is then painted on the tooth and hardened using a UV light cure. Sealants are commonly clear or minimally tinted, meaning that children will have little to no visible change in their smiles.
Around the world, dental sealant effects are proven to be effective. Within the Hellenic population in Greece, the efficacy of sealants was examined in varying age groups (12-year-olds vs. 15-year-olds). According to a study performed under BMC Public Health, the utilization of sealants reduced caries prevalence in children by 11% and 24%, for 12-year-olds and 15-year-olds, respectively. But the impact of dental sealants is not only limited to nations abroad.
Within the United States, according to the CDC’s Division of Oral Health, through blocking countless germs and food from disease-prone areas, sealants have the known ability to protect children against 80% of cavities for two years and continue to fight against up to 50% of cavities for up to four years.
For children, the use of dental sealants is imperative. When molars develop, inevitable pits and pockets on teeth are hotspots for dental infections and bacterial diseases. From preventing cavities to having the ability to maintain a child’s bright smile, it is crucial that we maintain awareness and utilization of these protective barriers for children.
~Jihoon Jun, Northeastern ’23