According to the American Dental Association (ADA), dental sealants are effective for preventing dental carries in children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the preventative measure for all school-age children, And according to the Surgeon General’s report on oral health, sealants reduce decay in children’s teeth by more than 70 percent.
What Are Dental Sealants?
Dental sealants are thin, plastic coatings that dentists apply to the back teeth. Made of clear or tinted plastic, they protect the grooved and pitted chewing surfaces where most cavities occur. Sealants keep food and germs from finding a “nesting” place in the grooves of children’s teeth.
How Do Sealants Work?
Even when children brush and floss carefully, it is hard to clean the tiny grooves on certain teeth. Bacteria and food particles build up in the crevices, increasing the risk of tooth decay. Dental sealants keep the food and germs out.
Permanent molars are the best candidates for dental sealants. Most children receive their first molars when they are 6 years old. Second molars appear around age 12. When a dental sealant is applied shortly after a tooth erupts, it can prevent problems from the start.
How Are Sealants Applied?
The application of a dental sealant is quick, easy and comfortable. It does not require drilling or removing any part of the tooth structure. A dentist or dental hygienist cleans the tooth and conditions it with a special gel. Then the tooth is washed off and dried.
This prepares the tooth to receive the sealant, which is painted on the tooth. After it flows into the grooves of the tooth, the sealant is allowed to harden. The dental professional may shine a light on the tooth to help the sealant harden.
It takes about a minute for the dental sealant to form a shield of protection. Whether they are clear, white or tinted, sealants are not usually visible when children talk or smile. They can only be seen close up.
How Long Do Sealants Last?
Dental sealants can last for many years if children take proper care of them. According to the CDC, they can last as long as 5 to 10 years. They are designed to protect children’s teeth through the most cavity-prone years.
Dental sealants are an effective part of preventive dentistry for children. Along with fluoride, brushing and regular dental care, they can help prevent tooth decay, cavities and fillings. The treatment is affordable, and most dental insurance policies cover the cost.