Do children need dental sealants?

Dental sealants are a quick, easy, and relatively cheap solution for preventing cavities.  Although the idea behind sealants is not new, they’re quickly becoming the go-to treatment for kids that are at high risk for dental decay.

“WHAT ARE DENTAL SEALANTS?”

Sealants are a plastic material that is placed in the groovy pits and fissures of the chewing surfaces of your teeth, particularly the permanent molars at the back because toothbrushes can’t reach all the way into the grooves to clean well.

“DOES MY CHILD NEED DENTAL SEALANTS?”

Kids are notoriously bad brushers and tend to ignore brushing in the problem areas in the back of the mouth that lead to cavities and decay. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that children receive dental sealants as soon as their permanent molars erupt, when the teeth are at the highest risk for cavities.

Those who are more susceptible to cavities and decay – whether that is because they are genetically prone to cavities, don’t have great oral hygiene habits, or lack access to dental care – should consider getting dental sealants as a preventative measure.

“HOW DO DENTAL SEALANTS WORK?”

Dental sealants fill in and smooth out the grooves and fissures in your teeth that tend to hide food particles and attract cavity-causing bacteria. According to the American Dental Association, sealants work by “sealing out” food and plaque…because, toothbrush bristles cannot reach all the way into the depressions and grooves.

“HOW LONG DO DENTAL SEALANTS LAST?”

Dental sealants can protect the teeth for up to 10 years, but need to be checked and maintained frequently by a dentist for cracks or damage.  If dental sealants are worn down or broken, it is possible for decay to get under the sealant.

We recommend having the sealants evaluated every 6 months for replacement/maintenance.

“ARE DENTAL SEALANTS EFFECTIVE?”

Dental sealants have been shown to reduce the risk of cavities in the teeth that are covered.  Research has demonstrated that coating the biting surface of 6-year molars with a plastic sealant can reduce cavities by up to nearly 80% immediately, and up to 60% for four years or more.

“ARE DENTAL SEALANTS SAFE?”

If you’re a parent, you’ve probably heard the buzzword “BPA” quite a few times in recent years.  The biggest factor in the general safety of dental sealants is Bisphenol A, commonly referred to as BPA, which is a resin used in many types of plastics.  There is some evidence that BPA can be harmful to a child’s health, but it’s not conclusive.  In July of 2013, the FDA banned BPA in baby bottles and children’s drinking cups.

The sealant material we use at our office does not contain BPA or byproducts of BPA and has been FDA approved.

“HOW MUCH DO DENTAL SEALANTS COST?”

As with all medical and dental treatments, the cost can vary depending upon the provider and your insurance plan.

We recommend dental sealants for all six and twelve year molars, and most insurance companies cover them as part of your child’s preventative care services.
When you bring your child in for their cleaning and check-up appointments, our staff will check to see if their molars are present, and if they are, we will discuss applying sealants with you.

“HOW ARE DENTAL SEALANTS APPLIED?”

The application process is simple and usually takes five or ten minutes. The teeth that will be sealed are thoroughly cleaned and dried, and then the chewing surfaces are roughened with an etching solution that helps the sealants adhere to the teeth. Next the sealant is “painted” onto the tooth and a special curing light bonds and hardens it. Sealants last for several years, and will be checked and touched up as necessary at your child’s future appointments.

Getting sealants is not painful and most children have no problem with the process. They just have to stay still and have their mouth propped open with a “tooth pillow” while the sealants are being applied. In children who have high dental anxiety or a strong gag reflex, nitrous oxide (laughing gas) can be administered during the sealant process to help them relax.

Let us know at your next dental visit if you have any questions regarding dental sealants and/or whether your child would benefit from placing sealants on their molars.

Dr. Mindy Dr. Malinda Maynard Husson, DDS, MSD is a dual trained board certified pediatric dentist and dental anesthesiologist. She is a mother of three and stays super busy at home with her toddler and twins! She enjoys meeting new families in the Richmond area and helping educate and care for the oral health needs of children of all ages.

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