When it comes to pediatric dental care, one of the most common preventative measures dentists take is the application of dental sealants to their young patients’ back teeth, or molars. At Madison Family Dental, we field quite a few questions regarding dental sealants. Today, we’ll shed light on the what, whys and hows of this quick, painless and highly beneficial dental procedure.
1. What are dental sealants?
A dental sealant is a thin, protective plastic coating applied to the back teeth, or molars, that is intended to shield the teeth from cavity-inducing bacteria. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 9 out of 10 cavities occur in the permanent back teeth. Molars are particularly susceptible to cavities for a number of reasons:
- Molars are our “chewing teeth,” which means thy face increased exposure to food and bacteria.
- Molars are more difficult to reach when brushing and flossing.
- Molars have a rough, uneven texture which provides the perfect surface for bacteria to accumulate.
2. Why does my child need dental sealants?
While routine brushing and flossing is a great way to maintain healthy teeth and gums, the odds are stacked against molars, which is why they can benefit from extra protection. According to the American Dental Association, sealants have been shown to reduce the risk of molar decay by 80%. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention corroborates the effectiveness of sealants, stating, “school-age children (ages 6-11) without sealants have almost 3 times more 1st molar cavities than those with sealants.”
3. When should my child get dental sealants?
The earlier a child gets dental sealants, the better. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), a child’s first molars appear around age 6, while their second molars break through at age 12. The ADA recommends sealants be applied to both sets of molars as soon as they fully emerge from the child’s gums. Sealants can function as an entirely preventative measure, applied prior to the presence of decay, or they can be applied when a small amount of decay already exists to prevent a full-blown cavity from forming.
4. What does the sealant application process entail?
The application of dental sealants is easy and painless:
- First, the dentist will clean and dry the teeth.
- Next, they will apply an acidic gel intended to “rough up” the surface of the tooth, which will help the sealant adhere to the teeth
- Then, the dentist will rinse the gel off and apply the sealant.
There is no “down time” after the application of sealants; children are free to eat, drink and play as they please. Sealants can protect teeth for up to ten years, and will eventually disintegrate on their own.