Teaching your child to brush and floss their teeth each day is the best way to prevent cavities and build oral hygiene habits they can practice into adulthood. However, there is another safeguard that we as dentists use to help fight against tooth decay: dental sealants. Read on to learn more about this preventive measure to see if it would be the right option for your child.
WHAT ARE DENTAL SEALANTS?
Dental sealants are thin, plastic coatings painted on the chewing surfaces of the teeth. While they are not substitutes for daily brushing and flossing, dental sealants can prevent cavities from forming.
HOW DO THEY WORK?
Dental sealants work as their name implies — they seal and help protect the teeth. Dentists place them over the grooved and pitted areas that exist in premolars and molars. Sometimes, the grooves in these teeth are narrower than a single toothbrush bristle, making them quite challenging to clean, especially for children. In addition, without regular, thorough brushing, plaque forms on the surface of the teeth, and over time, it creates a small hole known as a cavity. Once applied, dental sealants add an extra layer of protection over these hard-to-brush areas by creating a smooth surface to keep food out and your child’s teeth cavity-free.
The American Dental Association (ADA) states that dental sealants can also be placed over cavities in their early stages to help stop the tooth decay process. Since they are clear, your dentist can still view what is going on inside the tooth even after the dental sealants are applied.
HOW LONG DO THEY LAST?
Dental sealants can help protect teeth from decay for up to 10 years. However, your dentist will monitor their condition and suggest if they need to be reapplied sooner.
AT WHAT AGE SHOULD CHILDREN GET THEM?
We recommend that children between the ages of six to 14 years of age receive dental sealants. According to the ADA, your first molars break through around age 6, while your second molars appear around age 12. Most dentists recommend sealing these teeth as soon as they come through to protect them from tooth decay. In some cases, your dentist may even suggest applying dental sealants over baby teeth, especially if the teeth have deep grooves or pitted areas.
CAN ADULTS GET THEM?
Yes, adults can get dental sealants. Though children most commonly receive them, adults at-risk for cavities and those who do not have dental sealants or fillings can benefit from them.
HOW ARE THEY APPLIED?
First, your dentist cleans and dries the tooth. Then, they apply an acidic gel to slightly roughen up the tooth’s surface to make it easier for the dental sealant to adhere to the tooth. After a few seconds, they rinse the gel off and clean and dry your tooth once more. Finally, your dentist applies the liquid sealant to the tooth and uses a blue light to harden it. The process is quick, easy and painless!
SHOULD YOUR CHILD HAVE DENTAL SEALANTS?
As previously stated, dental sealants protect against tooth decay. According to the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC), dental sealants prevent 80 percent of cavities in molars. CDC data also shows that school-age children (between the ages of six and 11) without dental sealants have almost three times more first molar cavities than children who have them. Early cavity prevention can help eliminate the need for future (and sometimes costly) dental treatments like fillings and crowns.
While there is bisphenol A (BPA) in dental sealants, keep in mind that there is not enough to cause any harm to you or your child. As the ADA explains, you gain more exposure to BPA by breathing in air, coming into contact with dust, touching a receipt or using cosmetics than you do from dental sealants. You can learn more here.
The only potential side effect of dental sealants is a possible allergic reaction to them. However, this reaction is infrequent. If you or your child have allergies or any other concerns about the procedure, the best approach is to speak with your dentist. Your dentist can answer any questions you have and explain if dental sealants are an appropriate option.
WHAT ARE SOME OTHER WAYS TO PREVENT CAVITIES IN CHILDREN?
Remember, dental sealants are not a replacement for an oral care routine. Here are some additional methods to help prevent cavities in children:
- Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
- Floss between the teeth each day
- Encourage children to eat healthier snacks, rather than sugary sweets
- Visit the dentist regularly
If you would like to learn more about preventing cavities in children, check out our blog, Tips to Keep Your Child from Getting Cavities.
FAMILY DENTISTRY | THE LANDING DENTAL SPA
At The Landing Dental Spa, we want to make sure that you and your family have fun keeping your teeth clean and healthy for years to come. We also offer many amenities to make your time with us as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. If you have any questions about dental sealants or need to schedule an exam for you or your child, please give us a call at 304-594-2200 or contact us online. We look forward to seeing you soon!