Dental sealants are protective coverings comprised of thin plastic resin material which are placed on the occlusal (chewing) surfaces of teeth in order to seal out food and bacteria, thus helping to prevent cavities. Dental sealants are typically used on premolars and molars (the permanent teeth) which are more susceptible to cavities due to their natural pits (hollows on the biting surface) and fissures (grooves on the outer tooth surface). Bacteria can easily collect in these areas because they are more difficult to reach with a toothbrush. Dental sealants offer additional cavity protection especially when utilized in conjunction with a good oral hygiene routine. Studies have shown that dental sealants can reduce the risk of tooth decay in molars by almost 80%. This is a result of dental sealants coating the hollows and grooves of the tooth surface which keeps cavity-causing bacteria from building up and damaging the tooth.
Here at Discovery Kids Pediatric Dentistry, all of our sealants are BPA free (BPA, or bisphenol A).
How Can My Kids Benefit from Dental Sealants?
Dental sealants are typically recommended for children once their permanent premolars and molars come in. Because the molars erupt at different times, dental sealants are usually placed during more than one visit, however, if all of the molars are in, sealants can be applied all at one time. The most benefit comes from placing sealants as the teeth erupt, usually around age 6 and 12. Some children may be more susceptible to tooth decay in primary teeth, and sealants may be appropriate to protect their baby teeth in order to preserve adequate space for the permanent teeth. Dental sealants can be placed at any age and still provide the same protection. The recommendation of having the sealants applied upon tooth eruption simply lengthens the amount of time the teeth are protected, which is especially important during the cavity-prone years (ages 4-17).
Dental Sealants for High Risk Cavity Patients
Dental sealants can benefit anyone at any age, but especially those with a high risk for cavities, such as patients with:
- Deep pits and fissures in the teeth
- History of tooth decay
- Enamel defects
- Early signs of cavities
- Orthodontic appliances
- Excessive plaque
Although dental sealants have been available for over 30 years, reports indicate that only about 43% of children have them. A 2016 report on the importance of sealants released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) stated that school-age children without dental sealants had nearly 3 times more incidences of cavities than those children who had sealants. These statistics show that dental sealants are becoming one of the best methods of preventing cavities in children.
Applying Dental Sealants
Dental sealants are applied in a quick, painless process performed by either a professional dental hygienist or your dentist. It only takes a few minutes to place a sealant on an individual tooth, so the procedure is relatively short and can be completed during a regular check-up.
The Dental Sealant Procedure
Preparing the tooth: First, the teeth receiving the sealants are thoroughly cleaned of all plaque and debris and dried. An acidic gel is applied to each tooth to roughen the surface so the sealant will bond to the tooth. After a short time, the gel is rinsed off and the tooth is again dried. Applying the sealant: The dental sealant material is painted onto the tooth’s chewing surface with a brush and it flows into the grooves and hollows. Often, a special self-curing blue light will be used to help the sealant bond to the tooth surface. The hardening process then takes about 30 seconds. Evaluating the sealant: Your dentist or hygienist will check the occlusion (contact between teeth) of each sealant to ensure that they are adhered to the teeth properly.
After Dental Sealants
Dental sealants will need to be checked periodically at your regularly scheduled dental appointments, as they can wear down over time. Sealants can be reapplied if necessary, but can protect your child’s teeth for up to 10 years. Because dental sealants are relatively inexpensive and are often covered by dental insurance, parents find the process to be, not only simple, but highly cost-effective. The price of restoring just one decayed tooth can be far greater than the cost of having dental sealants applied to your child’s teeth. While sealants are extremely effective at helping to prevent cavities, they only give additional protection to the portion of the teeth that are covered. Brushing, flossing, and seeing your dentist regularly are still necessary components of your child’s long-term dental health.
Dental Sealant Safety
Other than the possibility of a rare allergy, dental sealants have no known side effects. They are considered to be incredibly safe. Some dental sealants can contain an industrial chemical called BPA (bisphenol A). At Discovery Kids, we use only BPA-free dental sealants to ensure that your child is not exposed to any potentially harmful substances.
Dr. Zarmin Lalani is a board certified pediatric dentist in Frisco dedicated to helping her patients develop and maintain good oral health habits that last a lifetime.
If you are looking for a pediatric dental office to call your dental home, please contact Dr. Zarmin Lalani and her team at Discovery Kids Pediatric Dentistry Frisco, Texas, by completing an online appointment request or phone 469-365-5437.