What are sealants, and how do they help my child?
Your dentist may have suggested that your kiddo may benefit from something called sealants. What in the world is that? Sealants are a very quick, easy, and completely painless procedure that will protect your child’s teeth from cavities and tooth decay. They are “painted” onto the chewing surface of back teeth, as these teeth are most vulnerable to poor oral hygiene. Once the sealant has been painted on, they harden very quickly to become a thin layer of plastic over the tooth. This protective shield goes on top of the enamel of each tooth that is covered. They then are able to “seal out” anything that may hurt the tooth!
Sealants add an extra layer of protection to keep out harmful germs and acids that may damage the tooth.
While brushing and flossing daily are extremely important to combat cavities and tooth decay, having sealants put on just give your tooth some extra help. Having sealants put on is considered “preventative care” in dental hygiene, as they help avoid future crowns, fillings, or caps.
The tiny grooves and ridges on the back teeth are often very uneven, and therefore more prone to tooth decay. Food and tiny other bits can very easily get stuck in the tiny ridges and stay there – even avoiding the toothbrush bristles!
How is it applied? Very easily: the tooth is completely cleaned and dried, and some cotton will be placed by the tooth to prevent saliva from getting on it. A solution is there put on the chewing surface of the tooth, creating a rough surface. The coating will adhere to the rough surface better than the tooth’s natural smooth surface. The tooth will be cleaned of the solution and dried again. Finally, the coating is brushed onto the tooth enamel where it will stick and bond to the tooth. A light may be shined onto the coating to help it harden faster.
Typically, sealants most benefit children. Kids should be brought in for a visit to have sealants put on their permanent molars as soon as they get them – this helps avoid the decay at all! Sealants can also be put on baby teeth if they have very deep ridges. Baby teeth should be protected so they do not have to be extracted or fall out early. Teenagers and adults can also benefit from this preventative care.
This coating can last for up to 10 years – pretty helpful to fight tooth decay! Your dentist will need to check on the sealant to make sure that there are no cracks or if it is worn down. If there are any cracks, then food can get under the coating and your child may still have issues with tooth decay. The American Dental Association says that all children should get dental sealants as soon as their permanent, or adult, teeth come in. Unfortunately, only about 40% of dentists complete this procedure for their patients.