A pediatric dentist’s number one job is to care for children’s teeth from birth to adolescence. Of course, that includes treating oral health issues when they arise, but more importantly, pediatric dentistry is about preventing problems before they start in the first place.
Dental sealants are one of our favorite tools to prevent cavities in kids. It’s a non-invasive, quick and painless procedure that we commonly recommend because it provides years of protection from cavities as your kid grows. Keep reading to learn about sealants for kids and how they can improve your child’s oral health.
What are sealants? How do they work?
Take a moment to roll your tongue along the molars in the back of your mouth. You’ll notice that they feel bumpy and have all sorts of crevices and pits along them. These grooves that you feel often trap bacteria and food particles, making molars highly susceptible to cavities. Although brushing goes a long way, even the best of brushers can struggle to clean those grooves properly. A better method is needed to protect these areas, and that’s where sealants come in.
Dental sealants, composed of BPA-free resin, cover and fill the pits and fissures of the back teeth to prevent cavity-causing materials from collecting. As a result, bacteria and food particles are sealed out, the molars are easier to clean and less prone to cavities.
When should sealants be placed?
Typically, sealants are placed when the first and second permanent molars erupt around ages 6 and 12, respectively. This is because these permanent molars have the deepest grooves of all the teeth, making them the most at risk for decay. Although sealants can be applied to baby molars as well, we do not routinely recommend them because the biting surfaces tend to be far less groovy and susceptible to decay.
What can I expect during my child’s sealant visit?
Placing sealants is quick and simple and can often be completed at your child’s cleaning visit. The procedure begins by cleaning and washing the tooth with an acid-etch gel that we call “blue shampoo.” Then, the tooth is coated with a bonding agent or “tooth glue”, which ensures that the sealant will stick to the tooth. Finally, the sealant material is flowed into the tooth’s grooves, where it fills the nooks and crannies in which cavities may otherwise form. A special blue light dries and hardens the sealant and secures it in place. The entire procedure takes just a few minutes and is completely painless.
How effective are sealants?
Studies show that sealants reduce the incidence of cavities on the biting surfaces of permanent molars by approximately 80% in children and adolescents. For sealants to be most effective, it is key to maintain proper brushing and flossing practices, as well as to keep to a low sugar diet.
How long do they last?
Sealants can typically last about 5 years but can stick around for longer if they are well maintained. We routinely check the status of the sealants at cleaning appointments and will recommend replacement if they become worn or chipped over time.
How can we help?
If you have questions about sealants and whether they’re a good option for your child, don’t hesitate to reach out to our office! At Sunshine Smiles, we are committed to keeping your child’s smile bright, healthy, and cavity-free!