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What Are Sealants and What Can They Do for Your Child?

What Are Sealants and What Can They Do for Your Child?

While it’s important to ensure that your child learns how to brush and floss properly, sometimes those techniques aren’t enough to prevent cavities. Bacteria and food debris can easily be left behind in hard-to-reach nooks and crannies, where they form plaque and work to cause tooth decay.

Dental sealants can help shield your child’s teeth from damaging materials. They act as a physical barrier to substances that stick to tooth enamel and cause damage to untreated teeth. 

Dental sealants are applied in a routine procedure your child can receive during their regular dental visit. Pediatric dentist Staci Brunell, DMD, at Yorktown Pediatric Dentistry in Yorktown Heights, New York, specializes in providing dental sealants and other preventive dentistry services for children. Dr. Brunell determines your child’s need for sealants after an oral exam and assessment of their teeth and gums. 

How dental sealants work

Dental sealants consist of a clear protective coating that is painted over each tooth. The material is applied to a tooth as a liquid, then hardened with the use of a UV light to create a strong plastic barrier to food debris and bacteria. 

Dental sealants are used to treat the teeth that are positioned back the furthest in the mouth. These teeth often have deep grooves on their flat chewing surfaces, places where bacteria and food debris can become lodged and attack tooth enamel. 

Dr. Brunell recommends that children receive sealants as soon as their primary teeth are in. First molars appear in most children by around 6 years of age. Protecting primary molars with sealants is important because they hold spaces for permanent teeth. 

Sealants are also recommended for second molars, which typically arrive around age 12. Protecting these teeth is important because they’re intended to last a lifetime.

Sealing these vulnerable teeth as early as possible can help prevent leftover substances from making holes in your child’s teeth. Dental sealants can also be applied over cavities to prevent further decay on an affected tooth. 

Benefits of sealants

The benefits of dental sealants are evident in research that indicates they can make an impact in reducing cavities. Dental sealants can prevent 80% of cavities in premolars and molars, areas where 90% of cavities develop. 

When compared to school-age children with sealants, children without sealants have almost three times more first molar cavities. Together with fluoride treatments, regular dental cleanings, and daily dental hygiene, sealants can help reduce tooth decay. 

Dental sealants usually last for about 10 years. Your dentist checks the status of your child’s sealants during their regular dental visits and reapplies them as needed.

While sealants are usually considered a treatment for children, adults who are prone to cavities can also benefit from having them. Many dental insurance plans provide coverage for the cost of sealants for children. 

Dental sealant application

The process of applying dental sealants is usually tolerable for even the youngest children. Our team works to ensure the procedure is as quick and painless as possible.

Dental sealants are usually applied after your child receives their regular dental cleaning. The process involves these steps:

  1. Each tooth is clean and dried
  2. An acidic gel is applied to each tooth to roughen up the tooth’s surface and make it easier for the sealant to adhere to the tooth
  3. The acidic gel is rinsed off after a few seconds 
  4. Each tooth is dried again
  5. The liquid sealant is painted onto each targeted tooth
  6. Blue light is directed at the teeth to harden the sealant

The entire application process for sealants takes just a few minutes. 

Learn more about dental sealants and how they can help keep your child’s teeth healthy and free of cavities. Contact our office to arrange a consultation.

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