Obstructive sleep apnea afflicts 18 million Americans, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Patients with the disorder experience brief, but repeated, interruptions of their sleep, which occur as a result of the patient’s airway becoming blocked. While the majority of sufferers are adults, the American Sleep Apnea Association estimates that 4 percent of children suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, and the majority of these young patients goes undiagnosed. That is, at least until they visit a dentist.
Practicing good brushing techniques, flossing regularly and receiving fluoride treatments are great ways to reduce cavities and tooth decay. But there is another way for patients to reduce their risk of developing cavities by having dental sealants applied to their teeth. Dental sealants are a great way for patients to protect their teeth and are an option provided by many dentists across the United States.
Dental sealants are a valuable option for all patients but are even more valuable for some groups. One of the groups includes patients who do not have regular access to dental care because of lack of transportation or cost. Another group is those individuals with genetic predispositions to cavities and tooth decay, and those who have medical conditions that contribute to tooth decay, like diabetes. Children can also benefit greatly from dental sealants as they may have not yet developed proper brushing and flossing habits. Children are also especially prone because of the shape of their teeth, as brushes and floss may not clean around them properly.
Dental sealants are applied to the pits and grooves of the teeth. These pits and grooves are a natural part of the tooth’s design and can collect food debris as a normal part of chewing. If food debris is not removed through normal brushing and flossing and is allowed to sit in those pits and grooves, plaque and bacteria can grow and flourish. It is this bacterium that leads to cavities, gingivitis, and periodontal disease.
"Dental sealants are an excellent way to protect the teeth," says Dr. Amy Norman, D.D.S. Norman is an Everett, Washington dentist who provides her patients sealants and other preventative treatments. "They are a physical barrier against tooth decay." Furthermore, they have been proven to be effective; according to the American Dental Association, they reduce decay and cavities by nearly 80 percent. "An 80 percent reduction in cavities is a significant benefit to patients, especially those who are high risk for decay," says Norman.
Dental sealants are typically placed in the molars. Sealants are usually made of resin or ceramic. These materials bond easily with the tooth's enamel, guaranteeing a good seal on the tooth.
For years, braces have been a rite of passage for many teens. New trends, however, suggest that kids younger than ten should be undergoing or investigating orthodontic treatment to straighten teeth and correct bad bites. Dr. Norman is an advocate for early orthodontic intervention and urges parents to set up evaluations in order to develop orthodontic treatment plans for her youngest patients.
Most people in their lifetime have experienced the excitement and trepidation of losing their first tooth as a child. Many children are excited because the new, permanent tooth means growing up, but also feel a little trepidation over the pain of the tooth actually coming out. All was usually made better with the promise of a visit and a few dollars from the tooth fairy. While the process of losing teeth goes on19 more times, it leaves many people questioning if baby teeth really serve a purpose at all. Researchers at a Swedish University examined the function and importance of baby teeth by examining, of all things, a fish.