By Caroline Bartha, Director of Performance Excellence and Karen Alamary, Registered Dental Hygienist, Florida Department of Health in Broward County School Based Dental Sealant Program
Oral health is vitally important to overall health and well-being. Research has shown children who have poor oral health often miss more school and receive lower grades than children who don’t. Later in life, there is a link between poor oral healthcare and diabetes, heart and lung disease, stroke, respiratory illnesses and conditions of pregnant women including the delivery of pre-term and low birth weight infants.
Dental disease is largely preventable through effective health promotion. Effective dental disease prevention programs help to improve the overall health of all Floridians. Dental sealants are the most effective way of preventing caries (cavities) in permanent molars, where 80% of decay occurs in the permanent teeth of children. The deep grooves of the molars allow decay to occur deep within the tooth structure where dental fluoride applications are less effective.
Thin plastic coatings are applied to the tooth surface that stop this decay from happening. On average, the cost for placing one dental sealant is less than half the cost of a single filling and if caries are found early enough, a sealant may be all that is necessary and may prevent further decay. The early placement of sealants on permanent first and second molars in children, prevents tooth cavities, which is one of the most common chronic conditions of childhood in the United States.
Untreated tooth decay can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing and learning. The sooner children begin getting regular dental checkups, the healthier their mouths will stay throughout their lives. Getting children to the dentist early establishes good oral habits and encourages dental care for years to come. If they’re going to the dentist from a young age, it’s something they’re going to be used to and more likely to do as they get older. Twice a year dental visits will become something that’s already in their routine.
A dentist can help teach your child good brushing and flossing techniques. Dentists that are trained in pediatric care know how to interact with children and make them feel comfortable. They can use fun things like games and free toothbrushes to demonstrate how children should be brushing and flossing their teeth. This can help them realize that brushing isn’t something they need to fight. Early checkups help prevent cavities and tooth decay, which can lead to pain, trouble concentrating and other medical issues. A “school-based” dental sealant program may be available at your child’s school where a professional team is available to do a dental exam and place sealants with minimal education disruption.
To learn more about dental care for children, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/ basics/childrens-oral-health