Proper brushing and flossing together with the use of fluoride can greatly reduce the incidence of cavities in children as well as adults.

However, fluoride cannot reach the chewing surfaces of back teeth. This is most evident in young people. But there is a simple way to solve that problem and preserve your healthy smile. All it takes is the use of dental sealants.

Dental sealants work by covering the teeth with a thin, plastic-like coating. This serves as a shield against tooth decay.

The process can be applied anywhere - in a dentist’s office, in school or even outdoors. It was first used in the mid-1950s by an American scientist and has benefited thousands of children in the United States, Thailand, and China.

"The application is painless and easy. First, your dentist cleans the chewing surface of your premolars and molars. Then, these surfaces are etched with a mild acid sealant that hardens into a shield that prevents accumulation of plaque in the pits and fissures," said Dr. David E. Larson, editor-in-chief of the “Mayo Clinic Family Health Book.”

“As long as the sealant remains intact, the tooth surface will be protected from decay. Sealants hold up well under the force of normal chewing and usually last several years before a reapplication is needed. During your regular dental visits, your dentist will check the condition of the sealants and reapply them when necessary,” added the American Dental Association.

Unfortunately, many people are unaware of dental sealants and some dentists do not even recommend them. This attitude should be corrected to reverse the growing trend of dental diseases in the country.

"Dental sealants have been underused by oral health care providers. Too often, they are also unknown to parents and children. Yet youngsters all over the world could suffer significantly less from tooth decay if sealants were used more frequently by dentists, their helpers and community health workers with special training," said Dr. Alice Horowitz of the US National Institute of Dental Research.

Children at about age 6 - when the first permanent molars erupt - will benefit most from dental sealants. The procedure can be applied again when the child is around age 11 to 14 when the permanent second molars and premolars appear.

But doesn't mean that adults can't have their teeth sealed. You're never too old to benefit from seal¬ants. This will ensure that your smile will last a lifetime.

"Dental sealants can last up to 10 years, although serious conditions may shorten their effectiveness. Regular visits to the dentist permit necessary touch-ups to extend the life of a sealant. If the sealant layer is lost, it can be replaced," Larson said.

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Author's Bio: 

Sharon Bell is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and published author. Many of her insightful articles can be found at the premier online news magazine