Dental sealants are thin, protective coatings that help prevent tooth decay in cavity-prone areas of your child’s smile. Usually, they’re applied to the chewing surfaces of the molars (back teeth) and sometimes the bicuspids, which are the teeth in front of the molars.
Sealants are applied to healthy teeth for preventative purposes long before a cavity ever has the chance to form. Dental sealants can reduce the risk of developing cavities by making it easier to clean the tooth on a daily basis. Specifically because deep grooves and pits are often too narrow to clean with a toothbrush, even if your child has good oral hygiene habits.
What are Sealants Made From?
Sealants are made from a plastic-like material. Unlike fillings, they aren’t permanent, so they may need to be replaced or touched up every 5-10 years or if sticky foods pull them off. The added protection is temporary to reduce your child’s risk of cavities. Ultimately the step is to help get them through childhood cavity-free, if possible.
Because sealant material is clear or white, they typically blend in with your child’s tooth and aren’t noticeable whenever they are talking, smiling, or laughing.
When Should My Child Get Sealants?
Dr. Houri recommends placing sealants on the permanent molars as soon as the chewing surfaces fully erupt through the gums. For most children, the first set of molars erupts around age six and the second set around age 12 (girls tend to be earlier than boys in most cases, but it can vary from case to case.) The important thing to note is that the earlier we seal the teeth, the better the chances your child has of not getting a cavity in those spaces during childhood.
Dental sealants are not like other dental restorations that are permanent. The sealant is only a protective layer applied to the outside of healthy teeth, meaning they can be pulled off by eating sticky foods. We will inspect your child’s sealants as part of their regular checkups, and if necessary, we can touch up or re-seal the tooth when needed.
What Is The Process To Get Pediatric Dental Sealants?
It takes only a few minutes for Dr. Houri or our dental hygienist to place a dental sealant on your child’s tooth. There is no need to numb the area or drill the tooth. Instead, the tooth is isolated from its rest and gently etched to roughen the outermost layer of the enamel. Then the clear sealant material is placed in the deep grooves of the tooth. A bright light cures the material, hardening it into place.
The entire process usually takes less than five minutes from start to finish. And if we’re sealing more than one tooth in that space, the sealants can be placed at the same time with little to no procedure time added. In most cases, we recommend placing sealants after your child’s dental cleaning before fluoride is applied. But we can also schedule the sealants at a separate visit if necessary (especially if your child would benefit from laughing gas to help them feel a little more relaxed.)
A Smart Investment in Your Child’s Oral Health
For children under 14 years old, most dental insurance plans will pay for protective sealants. But even if they do not, they cost just a fraction of restorative treatments, making them a great way to reduce the need for future treatments and long-term dental cost of care.
Does My Child Need Sealants on Their Baby Teeth?
Sealants work best for molars (back teeth) with deep grooves and pits in the chewing surfaces. Since most primary (baby) molars are smoother over the chewing surface, they usually don’t need sealants. However, that’s not always the case. Dr. Houri will evaluate your child’s tooth anatomy during their dental exam and compare it with their oral health needs to determine if sealants on baby teeth are recommended. Otherwise, she recommends waiting until your child’s first permanent molars erupt.
Where To Go For Sealants In Vista, CA
All Smiles Children’s Dentistry offers comprehensive pediatric dental treatments in Vista, including checkups, exams, and dental sealants. If your child is starting to get their permanent teeth or is due for a checkup, call our Vista children’s dentist today to reserve their next visit.