When it comes to our children’s dental health, what is the number one “bad guy” we tell our kids to look out for? Cavities.
As parents, we do all we can to teach our kids about the dangers of cavities and how to avoid them. Yet sometimes, despite our best efforts, those obnoxious little dangers still creep in, eating their way into our children’s teeth.
The good news is that there are applications that our dentists can apply that can make a huge difference in the protection of your children’s teeth. These applications are called “sealants.”
Made up of a thin, clear coating that is applied to the biting surface of your child’s teeth, sealants essentially lock out bacteria, food, and other cavity-causing substances. Think of sealants as the final protective layer that – combined with proper brushing, flossing and fluoride treatments – form a near impenetrable barrier for your children’s teeth.
And the even better news is that sealants are simple to apply, require no special upkeep and are often covered by dental insurance plans. With that in mind, let’s take a deeper look at what sealants are and if you should ask your dentist about them.
What are sealants?
Usually applied to the chewing surface of a child’s molars, dental sealants consist of a thin white or clear resin liquid that is applied with a small brush. The sealant bonds to the tooth and is dried via a blue LED light. There is no drilling required, nor any numbing agents, such as Novocain, or anesthesia, as sealant application is completely non-invasive.
Once hardened, the sealant acts as a protective layer, blocking out food and liquids (sugars being the worst culprit) that get trapped in the crevices of teeth and lead to bacteria growth – which in turn produces cavities.
Extraordinarily safe (there are some rare allergy issues for some children), many modern sealant materials are also BPA-free. And if there is BPA present in the sealant it is a miniscule amount, as to be negligible.
Sealants are also long lasting and, when applied properly, will last a minimum of 3-5 years – even up to 10. And they require no special upkeep or toothpastes.
Sealants can also be applied over the top of already existing cavities, preventing further decay – once that cavity has been cleaned and addressed by a dental professional.
Why use sealants?
In October 2016, a Centers for Disease Control report stated that dental sealants prevent up to 80 percent of cavities for 2 years after application.
The same report also found that sealants continue to protect against 50 percent of cavities for up to 4 years.
Studies also show that school-age children without sealants have almost three times more cavities than children with sealants.
With numbers like that, it is no wonder that sealants are becoming a standard in children’s dentistry. In fact, about 43 percent of 6- to 11-year-old children have a dental sealant.
It is also proven in other studies the impact that good oral hygiene has on a child’s life, including performance in school. Tooth decay often leads to severe pain, which can disrupt eating and sleeping – and those factors will certainly have an impact on any child’s ability to concentrate in class.
Which children should get sealants?
Frankly, we recommend sealants for any child old enough to have permanent molars. The reasons are that sealants are safe; do a wonderful job protecting the teeth and are worth the short dental trip required for application.
Certainly, children that have previously had cavities are at risk to have more, and we would highly suggest sealants for these patients. However, even if your child has never had a cavity, sealants can offer peace of mind that cavities are fully at bay.
Sealants in concert with other dental standards
Just because sealants can give your child a better chance of avoiding cavities does not make them a silver bullet. And you must maintain strong dental habits in order to make the most of sealants – that includes brushing and flossing, as well as bi-annual trips to the dentist for fluoride treatments.
In fact, an American Dental Association study showed that children with both fluoride treatments AND sealants were 73 percent less likely to develop cavities later.
That is because fluoride helps teeth to retain minerals and strengthens all surfaces of the tooth’s natural protective enamel.
How involved is the sealant application process?
Each tooth requires about one minute to be fully sealed. And there are no restrictions following the procedure. In fact, patients can eat and drink right away – and can return to school immediately.
The whole process is as simple as:
- Cleaning the teeth with a polishing brush and pumice (gritty toothpaste)
- Drying the teeth and isolating the teeth to be sealed with cotton
- Applying a disinfecting, etching solution to the surface of the tooth being – this also promotes better sealant adherence.
- Rinsing off the etching solution and drying again
- Painting on a thin bonding layer, followed by the sealant, covering the enamel.
- Curing the sealant with an LED blue light. This quickly hardens and bonds the sealant to the tooth surface.
That’s it! After the sealant is hardened, your child’s appointment will be complete.
Which teeth do dentists usually apply sealant to?
We usually seal your child’s first set of permanent molars, what are sometimes called, “6-year-old molars,” which normally grow in between ages 5 and 7.
When your child’s next set of molars, sometimes called “12-year-old molars,” grow in – usually between 11 and 14 years of age – we can re-apply sealants if desired.
Occasionally we recommend dental sealants for young children whose first set of molars, or “baby molars” have significant grooves or pits in them. Yes, these teeth will eventually fall out, but it is still important to protect your child’s oral health and doing so early on may prevent future problems.
Will my insurance cover sealants?
Many insurance plans do cover dental sealants. Considered a “preventive” procedure, insurance companies often cover between 80-100 percent of the total cost of sealants.
However, some insurance companies put age limits on sealants, so check with your insurance provider to determine the range of your coverage.
Contact us today to learn more or set up your sealant appointment!
If dental sealants interest you for the oral health of your child, please do not hesitate to call us today. We will be more than happy to talk over all options with you and help you set up an appointment with our caring staff. Please call us today at 678-450-7011.