Dental sealants are an easy and painless way to protect your child’s teeth and prevent cavities.
In contrast, a child who does not promptly get sealants is three times more likely to get a cavity in their molars before they turn 12 than a child whose molars are covered by sealants. Since cavities are one of the most common health conditions in children and teens, it is important to take advantage of this simple way to protect teeth.
Sealants are a great tool for protecting teeth, but many parents are under the assumption that sealants are infallible and last a lifetime. While they are an excellent source of protection, they do have limits that you need to be aware of to ensure that your child’s teeth gain the most benefit from dental sealants.
Molars and premolars have a rough, uneven chewing surface, with many grooves that can trap food and bacteria. Some of the fissures can be narrower than a bristle on a toothbrush. Regular brushing and flossing easily remove food particles and bacteria from smooth surfaces, but they are not so easily cleaned from the uneven surfaces. Unfortunately, this means that plaque quickly accumulates on these vulnerable back teeth, leading to a higher chance of developing cavities.
Properly placed sealants are a means of altering the natural anatomy of a tooth to prevent food impaction. Sealants cover the grooves on the tooth’s surface so they can no longer trap food and bacteria. In this simple way, they protect teeth and prevent the formation of plaque and cavities on the covered surfaces.
Although most commonly applied to the chewing surface of molars and premolars, sealants are sometimes helpful on other tooth surfaces. They can be placed anywhere a tooth has deep pits or grooves that are difficult to keep clean.
Sealants are simple and painless to apply. After a thorough cleaning, the tooth is dried, then we massage a thin layer of glass ionizer cement sealant material onto the tooth, forcing it deep into the grooves of the tooth. We rinse it with water, then your child “bites” them into place. Any extra material is removed, and the sealants harden on their own within 30 minutes. That simply, the tooth is protected.
We have chosen to use a glass ionizer cement sealant material because of its many benefits for children. Some children have weak or poor-quality enamel, and glass ionizer cement sealants stick to the tooth regardless of its quality. Unlike other sealant materials, the tooth does not have to be completely dry for the material to bond to it. This makes it much easier to use and more effective on very young kids that happen to have their permanent molars in. The material releases a small amount of fluoride to the tooth it is in intimate contact with. This substantially reduces the opportunity for bacteria to grow at the tooth/ sealant interface. Finally, glass ionizer cement sealant material does not contain BPA, which is a concern for many parents.
Interestingly, research shows that sealants can be applied over tooth decay that is still in the early stages. This can halt the progression of decay and prevent or delay the need for fillings. A review of studies on the effectiveness of sealants in managing tooth decay found that “sealing caries lesions reduced the likelihood of lesion progression by more than 70 percent (1).” The earlier the decay is caught the more effective sealants are in stopping the cavity from getting worse. Some sealants are clear and allow visual monitoring of early tooth decay.
It is important to be aware of the fact that sealants rarely last a lifetime. Depending on the skill of the person applying it, the average sealant lasts between 2 and 10 years. At Jungle Roots, our team is well trained in the application of sealants, and the teeth we cover with sealants will gain many years of protection. We also monitor the condition of sealants at your child’s regular checkups and will let you know if they become damaged or need to be replaced.
Sealants are inexpensive, and most insurance companies cover the cost of sealants for children. Our goal is to make the financial and insurance processes as easy as possible. We are prepared to work with you to plan a way to protect your child’s teeth. Filling a cavity costs far more than applying a sealant, so it is worth investing in sealants for your child’s teeth. It is far less costly and stressful for you and your child to place a sealant than it is to numb a tooth and fill a cavity.
Are sealants just for kids? Although commonly recommended for children, adults can also benefit from sealants, especially those who are prone to or at risk of developing cavities. Senior adults become more at risk for cavities as they age, and certain medications can also increase your risk. Your dentist can help you decide whether sealants would be beneficial for you.
Do your children need sealants even if they use fluoride? Yes. Fluoride helps teeth become stronger, while sealants act as a physical barrier to protect teeth. Covering molars and premolars with sealants while using fluoride to strengthen teeth is a great combination to combat the possibility of tooth decay.
Dental sealants are an important part of maintaining oral health, but it is still important to continue to brush with toothpaste that contains fluoride, floss, and get regular cleanings and checkups. Regular checkups are essential because we can monitor sealants to be sure that have not worn down, chipped, or fallen off. Additionally, during a checkup, we can identify decay in the early stages and use a sealant on the chewing surface of molars to prevent it from progressing. Regular checkups greatly increase the chance of catching decay early enough to avoid a filling.
Every parent wants their child to enjoy a lifetime of health. Dental sealants can be an excellent tool to maintain a child’s health and prevent unnecessary cavities. At Jungle Roots, we practice conservative dentistry, and would much rather prevent damage to your child’s teeth then restore them. We are happy to spend as much time as needed discussing whether sealants would be useful for your child and addressing any concerns that you may have. It is our privilege to help your children have a healthy smile and we hope to see you soon!
At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.