Dental Sealants: What Parents Should KnowPublished 07/16/2013
What are dental sealants?
Sealants are thin, plastic coatings that are usually placed on the chewing surfaces of the permanent back teeth. The liquid sealant quickly bonds into the depressions and grooves of the teeth, forming a protective shield over the enamel of each tooth.
Why get sealants?
The number one reason to get sealants is to avoid tooth decay. The chewing surfaces of the molar and premolar teeth have grooves (fissures) that make them difficult to clean and more prone to decay. Plaque accumulates in these areas, and the acid from bacteria in the plaque attacks the enamel, which leads to cavities. Dental sealants provide extra protection by covering the fissures and smoothing out those grooved areas, making it much easier to keep food and germs out. Another benefit of getting sealants before teeth decay is the time and expense you save from avoiding dental treatments like fillings, crowns and caps.
When to get sealants?
Children’s dentists recommend sealants on permanent molars once the chewing surface of the tooth has completely come in – before decay attacks the teeth. The first permanent molars, called “6 year molars”, come in between the ages of 5 and 7. The second permanent molars, “12 year molars”, come in between 11 and 14 years old. Your dentist might also recommend sealants for other teeth that have deep groves. Teenagers and young adults who are prone to decay may also need sealants.
Dental sealants may also be appropriate for baby teeth, such as when a child’s baby teeth have deep depressions and grooves. Because baby teeth play such an important role in holding the correct spacing for permanent teeth, it is important to keep these teeth healthy so they are not lost too early.
How is the sealant placed?
The tooth surface is thoroughly cleaned and dried. Then, a solution is placed on the fissured area to make a fine, rougher surface that enables the dental sealant to attach to the tooth. After the tooth is dried again, the liquid dental sealant is placed on the tooth and hardened using a light or a two-component dental sealant that sets without using a light. The sealants harden quickly and you are able to chew on the tooth again.
How long do sealants last?
Sealants can last up to 10 years. However, it is important to have your family dentist check your sealants for chips or worn away areas during your regular dental visits.
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