The concept of dental sealants inspires a few common questions from parents and guardians:
- Isn’t brushing and flossing enough?
- Won’t having extra protection just give them an excuse to be lazy about dental hygiene?
- They’re just “baby teeth”; why worry about them?
In fact, kids start getting their permanent molars as early as 6 years old, even while some baby teeth are still being sold to the tooth fairy. Dental sealants are a non-invasive way to protect those teeth from tooth decay and, along with proper brushing and flossing, set the stage for decades of bright smiles.
When it comes to dental care, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Dental sealants are clear coatings applied to the surfaces of a child’s molars to prevent the development of tooth decay. They work by preventing food and plaque from resting in the grooves and crevices of molars – an area especially susceptible to cavities. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, nearly 1 in 3 U.S. children ages 6 to 12 currently have sealants on their teeth.
Did You Know Sealants Can Last As Long As 5 To 10 Years?
Depending on a child’s oral development and risk factors for tooth decay, sealants may be applied to the teeth as young as age 6. It is at this time that the first molars typically appear. Additional molars erupt at approximately age 12. If possible, sealants should be applied to a child’s teeth immediately after any molar has appeared to reduce the risk of early decay.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will dental sealants affect the feel or appearance of my child’s teeth? Sealants bond directly to the teeth, where they harden to a clear or tooth-colored coat. This makes them virtually undetectable to others. Though it is normal to feel new sealants with the tongue, most children quickly adapt to their presence.
What will my child experience while getting sealants? The process of getting sealants is fast and painless. The tooth is cleaned before the dentist paints the sealant onto the enamel. The sealant will immediately harden, acting as a barrier between bacteria and the chewing surface of the teeth. In most cases, sealants will last several years before needing to be reapplied. However, regular visits to the dentist will be necessary to monitor the condition of the sealants and examine their effectiveness.
Will sealants prevent all cavities? While sealants are extremely effective for preventing tooth decay in children, they do not replace other forms of preventative oral health care. Children should still brush and floss each day using fluoridated toothpaste. Regular dental exams and a balanced diet low in sugar are also essential for long-term oral health.
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