Any parent wants their kid to have good oral hygiene and be cavity free, and it’s important to know about all of the available options for prevention and treatment. Along with brushing, flossing, and avoiding sugar, there are a number of special methods that pediatric dentists use to not just treat tooth decay and cavities, but actually help prevent them.
Dental sealants are one method in particular that can help add an extra layer of protection for your child’s teeth.
Many people have not heard of dental sealants and may have questions about this form of treatment. In fact, dental sealants are becoming a more popular and common form of early dental care that more patients are receiving. To help you learn more about dental sealants for kids, we’re happy to provide the following easy-to-understand overview.
What are dental sealants?
Dental sealants, or tooth sealants, are plastic coatings that protect the chewing surfaces of teeth from tooth decay primarily caused by bacteria feeding off the food stuck to the surface of teeth. They can also help protect against plaque formation. Dental sealants are often applied to the back teeth, such as the premolars and molars, which are where decay happens very often in children and teens.
This is a preventative treatment designed to lower the risk of cavities. It can also be applied for areas showing the earliest signs of decay to prevent them from worsening. Applying dental sealants are quicker, easier, and less expensive than most after-the-fact cavity treatments such as fillings.
How do dental sealants work?
Many dentists describe dental sealants as a raincoat for the teeth. Tooth decay and cavities develop when bacteria eat food that is stuck to the surface of the teeth and create acid as a waste product. This acid is what breaks down the enamel and dentin of the tooth, forming the holes that are cavities.
Dental sealants prevent food from sticking to the teeth in the first place, in the same way a raincoat stops water from getting your clothes wet. These coatings are made from safe, high quality, dental grade plastic and are basically painted onto the surface of the tooth.
This is a quick and pain-free process. First, the dentist applies a gel to prepare the surface of the tooth. The gel is rinsed off and the tooth is dried before the actual sealant is applied. The dentist will then use a special light to harden the sealant.
Sealants are clear so the dentist can monitor the condition of the tooth underneath to make sure it is working to prevent tooth decay or further development of cavities.
How long do dental sealants last?
According to the CDC, dental sealants can usually last for up to four years before they need to be reapplied. In some cases they may last even longer. Dental sealants are at their most effective for the first two years, but are still 50% effective at the four year mark. Individual cases may vary, so it is important to have regular checkups with your dentist to ensure sealants are performing their job properly.
You and your child should also be ready to follow all directions for caring for sealants and commit to regular oral hygiene practices as directed by your dentist to ensure sealants last as long as possible. Dental sealants work, but they are no substitute for brushing, flossing, and limiting sugar.
Should children have dental sealants?
Dental sealants are safe and effective for children of all ages. In some cases, dentists may recommend dental sealants for baby teeth, particularly if a child seems cavity prone. But in general they are most commonly used for older children with adult teeth.
Typically, dentists will advise dental sealants for children at around age six to eight, when the adult molars and premolars come in. Although the process is not painful, it will require a child to sit still in the chair for an extended period of time. Children may feel the sealant against their tongue for a short time after it is applied, but afterwards they will not be noticeable.
Your pediatric dentist can perform a full examination to determine if dental sealants are right for your child and answer any questions you may have.
Keep Your Family’s Teeth Healthy with the Help of AC Pediatric Dentistry
Going to the dentist can be scary — we get it. But it should be fun! Whether it’s care for baby teeth, big kid teeth, oral surgery, or orthodontics, our team of specialized pediatric dentists make the experience memorable while teaching you how to encourage healthy habits and good hygiene for lifelong smiles. Call us today or request an appointment online. We can’t wait to meet you!