Sealants: Long Lasting Dental Insurance
Four out of five cavities in children under 12 occur on the biting surfaces of the back teeth.
The teeth most at risk of decay are the six year molars and twelve year molars. The biting surfaces of these molars erupt into the mouth often with deep grooves and pits. Even if your child brushes his or her teeth, it is almost impossible for him or her to clean the deep hills and valleys on the back teeth. These teeth are at greatest risk of decay when they first erupt into the mouth. Sealants are placed on these teeth to seal out food and plaque thus reducing the risk of decay. One might say, why is this so important?
The 6-year molars are considered the most important teeth in your child's mouth. Once they erupt into the mouth, they act as foundations for the dental arch and its development. They also aid in keeping the other teeth in their positions.
A dental sealant is a clear or white plastic coating that is painted onto the biting surfaces of the back teeth. Sealants are applied in a liquid state and harden and bond to teeth in only a few seconds.
Sealants should be a part of your child's preventive dental care, along with brushing and flossing, use of fluoride, good nutrition and regular dental check-ups.
Brushing and flossing help prevent cavities. So does and regular dental visits. But one of the best ways to keep your child cavity-free is to have sealants applied to his or her back teeth or molars. Not only are sealants very effective, they also cost a lot less than filling cavities.
A sealant is a clear or tinted plastic coating that is brushed onto the chewing surfaces of the back teeth, the area where most cavities form. Look in the mirror at your own molars. As you can see, there are many grooves and crevices (also called pits and fissures) that food can get stuck in. In fact, some crevices can be so deep that the bristles of a toothbrush aren't small enough to reach into them to remove food that has lodged there. These pits and fissures provide the perfect environment for bacteria to grow and cavities to form. Sealants prevent this from happening. They cover the grooves and crevices so that there is no way for food to get into them.
Applying sealant is a quick, painless procedure that can be done during a routine dental visit. No injections are needed. However, it is very important that the child sit still during the treatment so the tooth or teeth being worked on stay dry. First, the dentist cleans the tooth to remove any food or debris in and around the teeth and makes sure they are completely dry so that the sealant can stick. The sealant is applied in liquid form and flows over and into the pits and fissures. The sealant usually hardens (sets) within 20 to 60 seconds or is set with a special light.
Kids Dental recommends that sealants be applied to each permanent molar as soon as possible. This may be when the tooth is only partially erupted. It depends on how accessible the tooth is and whether the dentist will be able to keep it dry during the application process. The child must be able to cooperate and sit still during the treatment. Sealants also should be applied to second molars when they erupt, usually when the child is about 12 years old. If your child is at high risk for cavities, your dentist may decide to seal your child's bicuspids as well. Dentists normally don't suggest sealants for primary (baby) teeth. However, they can be beneficial for some children.
Studies show that sealants can last a long time, often as long as 10 years. But they are plastic and don't last forever. The dentist will check the sealants during your child's routine check-ups. Sealants that are worn or gone can be replaced. Although it is rare, sealants can cause problems in children who are allergic to plastics or components of plastics.
Remember, sealants work well, but they can't keep your child cavity-free without some help. Good oral care at home is still very important.