In our parents’ day, cavities were sort of a rite of passage. The drilling and pain of having them filled was what was expected after indulging one too many times in sweet treats. But ever since the approval by the American Dental Association (ADA) in 1976 of dental sealants for the long-term protection of teeth from decay, children are all receiving sealants on their permanent molars and cavities are as rare as a lunar eclipse, right? Not exactly.
These resin-based sealants are applied to children’s molars, preferably very soon after the teeth erupt (between ages 5 and 7), and have been shown to reduce cavities by nearly 80 percent immediately and up to 60 percent for four years or more. But according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), only 20-40 percent of kids are receiving the recommended resin-based sealants, and a recent study found that only 40 percent of dentists are offering them to their patients.
They’re not prohibitively expensive (typically about $30-$40 per tooth) and they’re usually covered by dental insurance. But there’s a lot of disagreement among experts about when they should be applied and whether they’re effective.
Some dentists believe they should not be applied to teeth that show any signs of decay, while others trust research that says decay does not progress beneath a sealant. Also, some dentists have found them to be ineffective. Other dentists counter that sealant failure can be chalked up to improper application by inexperienced dentists.
Another controversy surrounding sealants is that they expose children to BPA, the chemical found in some plastics that’s been linked to health issues in infants and children. While BPA is released when certain chemicals in the sealants come in contact with saliva, it’s only during the application process before the sealant is set with an ultraviolet light. Experts say that the layer containing BPA can be wiped away or rinsed and sucked out of the child’s mouth to prevent what is already a minimal exposure.
Despite the various controversies surrounding sealants, the CDC joins the ADA in supporting and recommending sealants for children, stating that the benefits they offer outweigh any possible risks. Nevertheless, the choice to apply sealants to your child’s teeth is a personal decision that parents should make in concert with their dentists.
Do you agree with sealants in kids? Let us know!
Sources: vitals.nbcnews.com and msnbc.msn.com