Should Your Child Get Dental Sealants?

From the time that your child’s first tooth breaks through the surface of his gums, his dental health care begins. And, by the time of his first dental visit, you should consciously be considering how you can help your child keep his teeth clean and healthy for the rest of his life.

Besides braces, one of the most common reasons for your child to visit the dentist outside of routine cleanings is to have a cavity filled after it has started to rot a tooth. While there is little you can do to avoid the need for braces, you can take steps to prevent cavities from forming inside your child’s mouth. While brushing and flossing are a necessity, Daniel Klein D.D.S., who owns a family dental practice in Pittsford, New York, also suggests that his younger patients get sealants placed on the teeth that are most susceptible to decay.

What are sealants?

Sealants are a great way to prevent the growth of cavities on a tooth by coating the back few teeth of your child’s mouth where cavities and decay are most common. The dental sealant is a coating that is bonded onto the biting surfaces of the bicuspid and molar teeth by using a liquid resin which fills the groove pattern of the teeth, says Klein. Once dried, this protective layer that is formed thereby prevents bacterial plaque from occupying this space and causing tooth decay.

While the sealant will coat the biting surface of teeth on a person of any age, the process is typically done on patients that are 18 or younger, he explains, because dental insurance agencies will only cover the procedure until a child is  around 16 to 18 years old. The coatings will generally last for at least five to seven years, Klein explains. And, the ease in which dentists can perform the procedure makes it painless for your child as well, equating to him being more comfortable in the dental chair during the process.

How are the sealants applied?

After cleaning the teeth with air abrasion, the biting surfaces are acid etched for one minute to prepare the tooth for the sealant liquid. Acid etching involves coating the teeth with a specific gel that has a particular concentration of phosphoric acid (usually 30% to 40%) which is then thoroughly washed off and then air dried. Afterwards, the liquid resin is applied into the grooves of the teeth and hardened using a special light.

Once the process is completed on all the teeth, bacteria from the acids in the mouth or from the food and drinks your child consumes can no longer access the teeth’s biting grooves, which also means that cavities cannot form on these biting surfaces. It is important to keep in mind, however, says Klein, that cavities can still form on the sides of the teeth that touch other teeth. So, brushing and flossing everyday is still an absolute must, and you should continue to schedule dental cleanings with your child’s dentist twice a year.

*Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your healthcare provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with an appropriate healthcare provider.

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