Wherever dentists and oral health experts may fall on the Great Flossing Debate of 2016, there are other methods for cavity prevention that don’t always get the same amount of attention as brushing twice a day and flossing regularly. As a recent FiveThirtyEight article explains, applying dental sealants is one such method, and it can lower the risk of cavity development in childrens’ teeth by as much as 76 percent.
Sealants coat the pits and fissures of molars to create a shield that prevents decay from taking hold in those nooks and crannies. And yet sealants are underutilized.
The author offers a few speculative reasons as to why sealants aren’t more common: dentists are surgeons at heart, and will always have a bias for drilling; they may be concerned that decay will continue unchecked under the sealant; or—perhaps more controversial—they’re motivated by the higher fees they can charge for fillings, which can be three times as expensive as sealants.
The American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry have released newly updated practice guidelines claiming that sealants not only prevent tooth decay from starting in the first place, but also arrest the development of early decay into full-blown cavities.
As the dust settles on the Great Flossing Debate of 2016, it’s nice to know that dentists have a full range of tools at their disposal to help patients keep a healthy smile.