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Preventing Tooth Decay

By August 2, 2018Blog

Did you know that tooth decay is one of the most common chronic childhood diseases? It is even 5 times more common than asthma! Studies show that children with dental problems are 3 times more likely to miss school and have lower test scores than those with healthy teeth. The good news is that tooth decay preventable! Read on to learn about services that your child can receive.

FLUORIDE:

Fluoride is a mineral naturally found in small amounts of our everyday food and water supply. At a concentrated amount, fluoride has proven to strengthen the tooth’s enamel. This protects against tooth decay. The application of fluoride varnish is quick and painless. A dentist, registered dental hygienist, doctor, medical assistant or nurse can do this for your child. He/she will paint the fluoride varnish onto your child’s teeth with a small brush. Your child’s saliva sets it onto the tooth. So, it is recommended to let the varnish sit on the tooth for at least 5 hours for best results. The benefits of the treatment can last up to 6 months. Your child can receive this treatment in a dental clinic, medical clinic or even in a community setting such as at their school, or a community fair. Almost all dental insurance plans will cover the placement of fluoride varnish for young children. Medi-Cal/Denti-Cal will cover this treatment until the age of 21. If your child has private insurance, check with your provider for the cut-off age for this service. In the dental setting, your child can have fluoride varnish placed twice per year. At the medical office setting, your child can have fluoride varnish placed up to four times per year.

SEALANTS:

Sealants are a white or clear material that a dental provider can place onto the chewing surface of your child’s back teeth. Dental sealants create a barrier on the grooves of the back teeth. This barrier blocks out food and bacteria, keeping them from sitting on the chewing surface. This helps prevent the formation of cavities. This treatment is best for children from the age of 6 to 16-18 years of age. The placement of a dental sealant is quick and painless. Your child can receive this service at a dental clinic or in a community setting that has a mobile dental chair!

The dental provider will:

1)   Polish the tooth to clean off any bacteria or debris;

2)   A material called “etchant,” will be placed on the tooth for 30 seconds-1 minute – this material helps the sealant stick to the tooth;

3)   Rinse out the etchant with water;

4)   Dry the tooth;

5)   Place the sealant material onto the tooth; and

6)   Set the sealant material with a UV blue light.

The entire process takes about two to three minutes per tooth, and multiple teeth can be treated at the same time. After the sealant is placed, your child will be asked to practice biting. If the bite feels wrong, your dental provider may adjust the sealant material by flattening it out. Over time, the sealant material will naturally wear down, so your dental provider may suggest letting the natural wear occur rather than adjusting it at the dental clinic. Most insurances cover the full cost for the treatment to be placed on the adult molars (back teeth). Sometimes there are policy limitations for how frequently they can be placed or if they can be placed onto other adult teeth. Be sure to check your insurance provider to see if your child’s plan has any restrictions.

ANNUAL DENTAL VISITS:

The most important professional preventive service to utilize is a yearly dental exam.  An average dental exam for a child includes 2-6 x-rays taken, a dental cleaning, fluoride varnish application, and an exam performed by the dentist. At this visit, your dental provider will be able to perform preventive services and recommend additional visits you or your child might need. They will also be able to identify dental problems at an early stage, before it causes pain and discomfort for your child.  Medi-cal/Denti-cal will cover two dental exams per year for children up to the age of 21. Private insurances will also cover two dental exams per year for children, the child to adult cut-off age varies per insurance, so be sure to check with your insurance provider.

Our children need their teeth to speak clearly and to eat food to grow healthy and strong.  Be sure to keep up with yearly dental exams to help your child maintain a healthy life-long smile!