Dental Sealants: Protecting the Teeth of America’s Children

Dental sealants protect teeth

Preventing Cavities With Dental Sealants

Protecting our children’s teeth is just one of many things we need to do as parents. If your child develops tooth decay, it can mean pain, eating and speaking difficulties, or embarrassment when they smile and lead to more significant problems for their adult teeth down the road. Dental sealants, however, can help reduce your child’s risk of tooth decay by providing extra protection between your child’s teeth and cavity-causing bacteria.

What are dental sealants?

Dental sealants are thin, plastic coatings painted onto the chewing surfaces of the premolars and molars to prevent tooth decay. These sealants bond into the depressions and grooves of your child’s teeth, creating a highly protective shield over the dental enamel. Your child’s dentist may recommend sealants if your child has deep pits and grooves in their back teeth. 

Often parents think that if their kids practice good oral hygiene at home, their teeth are well protected. And though brushing twice a day, flossing once per day, and rinsing with a fluoridated mouthwash is critical for good oral health, those things still may not be enough. Food particles and germs can work their way into the grooves where your child’s toothbrush bristles can’t reach. And as a result, this can lead to tooth decay, or cavities.

Pediatric dentists often recommend dental sealants for first and second permanent molars. Rarely are sealants applied to baby teeth, though this isn’t to say that there are never cases where your child’s dentist will not recommend sealing a baby molar if it has abnormally deep grooves that are at risk of developing decay.

Who needs dental sealants?

Though both adults and children alike can benefit from dental sealants, the most benefit occurs when sealants are applied at an early age. The best timing for sealants is once your child’s first permanent molars come in. In most cases, children will get their permanent molars around age 6, and second permanent molars around age 12. Those at higher risk for tooth decay will experience the most benefit, so don’t hesitate to ask your dentist if dental sealants are necessary for your child. 

What are the other benefits of dental sealants?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that school-age children between ages 6 and 11 without sealants have almost three times more first-molar cavities than those with sealants. Further, low-income children are 20% less likely to have dental sealants, yet two times more likely to have untreated cavities than children in higher-income families. When cavities are left untreated, they can cause pain and infection. Cavities can also create speech problems and problems eating.

Dental sealants provide three critical benefits:

1. Cavity Prevention

The primary benefit of dental sealants is their ability to dramatically reduce your child’s risk of developing a cavity. And since dental sealants are known to work up to nine years after placement, both parents and children can rest assured that those young teeth have a trustworthy extra layer of protection. However, if a tooth loses a sealant, the protective shield will be gone and must be replaced.

2. Easy Application

Though dental fillings are pretty common in both adults and children, it is best when steps are taken to avoid the need. Dental fillings require longer chair time and are more involved than sealants as the decay must be removed before the filling is placed. Dental sealants, on the other hand, are noninvasive and painless, which make their application the preferable experience. 

When dental sealants are applied, your pediatric dentist or hygienist first puts an etching solution on your child’s chewing surfaces to roughen them up. This process helps the sealant bond to the teeth. Next, they rinse and dry the teeth. Lastly, the sealant is painted onto the dental enamel to bond directly to the tooth and cured with a special light. All in all, dental sealants are easy to apply and take only a few minutes per tooth. 

3. Happy, Healthy Smiles

Your child’s smile is vital to their self-confidence. And Dr. Mo and Dr. G at Must Love Kids Pediatric Dentistry want to help your child build a strong foundation for oral health by assisting them in creating long-lasting, healthy dental habits. We recommend dental sealants to our patients who are prone to tooth decay and work with them to reinforce proper brushing, flossing, and mouthwash habits, as well as routine cleanings and evaluations.

Contact Must Love Kids Pediatric Dentistry about dental sealants for your child.

If you want to discuss dental sealants and cavity protection for your child, the team at Must Love Kids is ready to assist. Dental sealants are by far one of the best preventive measures you can take to protect your child’s oral health. So request an evaluation today and see why we’re the best pediatric dental team in Vancouver, Washington.