Sealants are a safe, painless, and low-cost way to protect your child’s back teeth from decay. They have been used to protect children’s back teeth for several decades. The back teeth have tiny grooves on their chewing surfaces that form as each tooth develops. This is where most decay occurs in children. Food and bacteria get trapped in these grooves.
A dental sealant is a clear plastic coating that is painted on back teeth. It acts as a barrier against the sugars and starches that cause tooth decay. Usually the molars and premolars are sealed and not the front teeth. Fluoride helps protect the smooth surfaces on the front teeth and on the sides of the back teeth.
Sealants can be applied as soon as the first permanent teeth (6-year molars) come in (erupt). This occurs between 5 and 7 years of age. The second molars (12-year molars) and the premolars should be sealed as soon as they erupt, between 11 and 14 years of age. The reason for this is because the greatest chance of decay occurs during the first year after the teeth erupt. However, sealants can be applied to teeth as long as they are free of decay and fillings.
All the back teeth can be sealed in one 30-60 minute office visit.
Our dentist or hygienist will check the sealants at each regular dental checkup. Call us if the sealants interfere with chewing or cause any sensitivity in your child’s mouth. Sealants wear overtime and may need to be replaced periodically. Usually sealants can last 3 to 5 years. If they chip or come off, they can easily be replaced. You can help the sealants last by encouraging your child not to chew on ice cubes or hard or stick candy.
Many dental insurance plans cover all or part of the cost of sealants for children. Call your insurance company to confirm your coverage of sealants.
What About Baby Teeth
Baby teeth do not need to be sealed unless your dentist recommends this if there is a high risk of decay. Since baby teeth are “space holders”, losing baby molars from decay can cause crowding when the permanent teeth come in.
Call us today at (586) 574-3050 for any questions you have about sealants and to schedule a dental visit for your child’s dental health.