Tooth decay is a common problem for all ages, but especially for kids, as their thinner tooth enamel and often sugary diets make their teeth more likely to be damaged.
Almost half of New Zealand children having cavities by the age of five, according to Health Navigator, and this can affect the development of their permanent teeth.
If you want to protect your child's teeth from decay, ask their dentist about fissure sealants. These are protective resin coatings applied to the teeth that fill in small gaps to prevent bacteria from entering.
Sealants create a smoother tooth surface that's easier to keep clean. A tooth protected by fissure sealants is three times less likely to experience decay than an unsealed tooth.
When is the best time for fissure sealants?
Your child's dentist may recommend fissure sealants during their regular check-up if they notice deep pits and grooves on their teeth or problems with oral hygiene that make decay more likely.
They can also be applied to teeth that already have tooth decay, to prevent further damage and the need for a filling. The treatment may also be recommended generally as a preventive measure.
Fissure sealants may be applied to primary (baby) teeth or permanent (adult) teeth, usually during childhood and adolescence, although adults can have sealants too.
Since teeth are most vulnerable to decay when they've just erupted in the mouth, dentists recommend applying sealants as early as possible, but the decision is down to the parent or child.
Which teeth should be sealed?
Fissure sealants are used on the chewing teeth at the back of the mouth, which are the most likely to develop decay and cavities.
Dentists normally only seal the molars, but premolars may also be treated if they have larger pits or are particularly susceptible to decay. Sealants can also be applied to wisdom teeth if requested, which don't erupt until the late teens to early 20s.
What does the procedure involve?
Fissure sealants may be placed by a qualified dentist, hygienist or oral health therapist. The procedure is fast and painless, with no need for anaesthetic and usually no drilling, unless there's already decay present that needs to be removed.
After preparing the tooth surface, a composite resin similar to that used for a tooth filling is carefully applied to fill in all pits and grooves on the teeth. The resin is then cured using a strong light. The process takes a few minutes for each tooth.
Your child can eat and drink as normal after sealants have been placed, and they may find that brushing and flossing are now easier. Sealants normally last for around 3 years, but they may fall out earlier if damaged or without good oral care.
Talk to a children's dentist in Auckland
If you want to know more about fissure sealants or it's time for your child's check-up, contact our team at St Heliers Dental Centre. Call us on (09) 575 5814 or book an appointment at our Auckland clinic.