Sixth grader Dakota Fink admits she has a big sweet tooth. “My eating habits are just like junk food. I'm like the candy girl who loves candy,” she says.
And her teeth are paying the price.
The dental hygienist working out of her school library found her molars have deep grooves. Those grooves trap bacteria and plaque that can cause tooth decay.
To seal them, a thin layer of plastic, called a dental sealant, is injected over the tooth. A bright light cures the sealant to it adheres over the tooth like an umbrella. It will stay there to fight of bacteria.
50 percent of Ohio third graders have at least one dental sealant, but the health department says that number should be much higher, considering how effective sealants are to prevent cavities.
“I don't know if parents don't understand what sealants are. I don't know if parents just don't want people working on their children in school," says Carrie Farquhar, Oral Health Administrator Ohio Department of Health.
The dental sealant program is provided for free by the state for second and sixth graders, many of whom attend school where 40 percent of the students qualify for the free lunch program.
“We need to be focusing on the young children because tooth decay is starting at a younger age,” says Farquhar. She says the risk of getting cavities is far greater when young children don't get a dental sealant.
Dakota Fink received two sealants, and says she now understands why it’s important to lay off the sweets. “Yeah, when I get older I don't want my teeth to rot and fall out and I won't have any teeth at all,” she says.
There are some concerns about dental sealants. Sciencenews.com reports one study where a type of resin used in dental sealants can lead to moodiness in children and aggression.
The Ohio Department of Health says parents have nothing to worry about, because the resin is used at low levels.