There is a too-common misconception that having quality oral health care isn’t as important for children because baby teeth fall out and are naturally replaced — giving the illusion that any issues with baby teeth will resolve themselves once they’re gone. However, that isn’t the case at all.
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, making this a great time to talk about the year-round benefits of optimal oral health — including preventive care — for children. Incorporating good oral health care practices and education into a child’s routine can set them up for success later in life.
One particularly important tool for children’s oral health are sealants. That’s why this year, the American Dental Association (ADA) is educating adults on the benefits of dental sealants for children’s teeth.
“Sealants are one of the most effective methods we have to protect a child’s teeth from cavity-causing bacteria,” said Dr. Amber Bonnaig, DentaQuest’s dental director in Georgia. “Showing children how to properly brush and floss their teeth is most important and helps develop life-long oral health habits, but sealants are a critical safety net to stop early stages of decay from becoming a full-blown cavity.”
Why Sealants Are Essential
A sealant is a thin, protective coating that adheres to the chewing surface of a person’s back teeth. Once applied, the sealant flows into the grooves of the molars — areas that are tougher to reach through brushing and flossing — and then hardens. Think of a sealant like a raincoat, but instead of protecting you from rain, it’s creating a protective barrier between a child’s teeth and food and plaque. According to the ADA, sealants have been proven to reduce the risk of tooth decay by nearly 80% in molars.
Tooth decay, also called caries, is one of the most common chronic diseases among U.S. children. In fact, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 20% of children ages 5 to 11 have at least one untreated decayed tooth and about 13% of adolescents ages 12 to 19 have the same. If left untreated, tooth decay can cause unnecessary pain and infections and can result in serious consequences, such as problems eating, speaking and learning.
Sealants are also more cost effective, timely and painless than enduring cavities and treatments like fillings or crowns. By applying sealants to a child’s teeth early on, both dentists and patients can save time, money and possibly prevent more extensive procedures in the future.
Sealants are a critical tool in the arsenal when it comes to preventive care. DentaQuest’s goal is to prevent oral health problems before they occur, and a healthy oral health future begins with education and prevention. It’s why we work to help families prioritize preventive care, starting during pregnancy, into childhood and throughout a person’s adult life. It’s also why we offer programs to reward providers for their preventive care efforts.
One example of DentaQuest’s commitment to preventive care is a bonus payment program recently conducted in Tennessee. DentaQuest offered a Preventistry Bonus Payment to the top two providers who had the largest number of completed sealants and silver diamine fluoride (SDF) treatments. These bonus payments were given to recognize practitioners for providing Medicaid enrollees with incredible preventive care.
“Sealants are an easy and effective way to fight against early childhood caries, making this protective barrier an excellent preventive measure when it comes to your child’s oral health,” Bonnaig said.