For parents wanting to improve their child’s dental health, sealants for teeth help to boost a child’s protection against cavities. Even with regular brushing, cavities can occur. Untreated cavities can cause pain and infection. Over the long term, untreated cavities can lead to problems in eating, speaking, and learning for children. Dental sealants truly support the idea that prevention is the best cure.
What are dental sealants?
Sealants are a thin coating that the dentist applies to the teeth. This protective coating is generally made from plastic or other dental materials and applied to the chewing surface of the back teeth. Dental sealants can provide years of added protection against cavities.
Those molars in the back of the mouth that we use for chewing have lots of places where leftover food and bacteria can hide. Even for an adult who is diligent about brushing, it can be hard to reach and brush clean all the surfaces where food hides. Left untouched, that food and bacteria can lead to decay and eventually a cavity.
How do dental sealants work?
The American Dental Association describes sealants as “raincoats for your teeth.” Once the dentist applies sealants, that leftover food and bacteria in the mouth cannot settle on the teeth. Like a good raincoat keeping you dry in the rain, those sealants keep teeth safe from decay.
Dr. Ryan Griffith says, “Sealants are one of the most effective ways of preventing cavities in back teeth, especially those that have naturally deep grooves.”
The Centers for Disease Control report that only about 40% of children ages 6 to 11 years old get dental sealants. But the added protection that sealants provide can prevent 80% of cavities in the back teeth, notes the CDC. That hard-to-reach, back-of-the mouth area is where 9 in 10 cavities occur.
The dentist can apply sealants as soon as the child’s molars break through. The first molars appear around age 6, with the second molars coming around age 12. Applying the sealants as soon as the molars arrive gives the child the best chance for long-term prevention of cavities in those molars.
Do sealants hurt?
Getting sealants applied is a pain-free procedure. The dentist cleans and dries the teeth before applying a gel that roughens the tooth surface. This roughening allows for the sealant to attach firmly to the teeth. The dentist then rinses off the gel, dries the tooth again, and applies the sealant. Using a special blue light, the dentist hardens the sealant. Once sealants are applied, they last for several years. They can be reapplied as needed.
Some dental insurance plans provide coverage for sealants.
Learn more about dental sealants and other preventative dental care options on our website.