Dental Sealants for Kids
Dental Sealants: Tried and True Cavity Prevention
Since the 1960s, dentists have used dental sealants to protect the chewing surfaces of teeth (particularly in pediatric patients) from plaque and bacteria that often lead to cavities.
Children without sealants develop almost three times as many cavities in their first molars as children with sealants. At Smile Center for Kids, we recommend dental sealants for all healthy molars (adult and baby molars) and bicuspids.
What Are Dental Sealants?
Sealants are a protective layer of clear, BPA-free plastic that can be brushed onto the chewing surfaces of teeth to seal out harmful, cavity-causing bacteria. This tooth sealant material covers the pits and crevices in the molars that can be difficult to keep clean.
Why Would My Child Need Sealants?
The first adult molars typically arrive around age 6, when a child is old enough to be brushing their own teeth but still doesn’t quite have the dexterity to be as effective at it as an adult. They often have a hard time keeping plaque out of the chewing surfaces of their new molars. This is why, as soon as the first permanent molars erupt, they can benefit from sealants. We also recommend placing sealants on primary molars, adult bicuspids, and adult 2nd (12 yr) molars.
What Is the Process for Getting Sealants?
We can easily apply sealants in the course of a regular dental check-up. It is a quick and completely painless preventive dental service. We do this in eight easy steps.
- Preparing the tooth: first, we clean the surface of the tooth to ensure that no plaque is trapped underneath the sealant.
- Isolating the tooth: we use cotton rolls and shields to keep any saliva away from the tooth, as saliva can weaken the bond between the sealant and the tooth enamel.
- Etching the tooth: we gently etch the chewing surface of the tooth so that the enamel will receive the sealant material more effectively.
- Rinsing and drying the tooth: we rinse the etching material away and dry the tooth completely.
- Applying the sealant: we mix and apply the sealant to the tooth’s surface using a small brush tip
- Curing the sealant: we use a special light to harden the sealant material.
- Cleaning up: we wipe and rinse the tooth.
- Checking our work: finally, we make sure there is complete coverage and without any bubbles in the material. If a bubble exposes tooth enamel, we may add more sealant material.
How Long Will Sealants Last?
Sealants can last as long as ten years, and the dentist will check for chips or cracks during regular cleaning appointments. They usually deteriorate gradually over years, and we can determine the best time to replace them. Chewing hard foods or an ice-chewing habit could result in sealants wearing out much faster than they should.
Do Dental Sealants Really Prevent Cavities in Children?
Sealants are incredibly effective at reducing the risk of childhood tooth decay. 90% of cavities in childhood occur in the permanent back teeth, and sealants have been shown to protect against 80% of these cavities for the first two years after they are applied and 50% for up to four years. They are especially helpful for children with a weakness for sweets and/or difficulty with brushing their teeth.
That doesn’t mean brushing and flossing are any less important; sealants don’t cover the entire tooth, so good oral hygiene habits are still critical for maintaining healthy teeth and gums.
We Can Apply Sealants on Your Child’s Next Visit
If you have questions about dental sealants for yourself, your child, or another loved one, don’t hesitate to ask. Please give us a call at either our Sunland Park Drive location (915) 455-3370 or our Edgemere location (915) 455-3448.