Dental sealants are a plastic varnish applied to the chewing surface of the tooth to prevent decay. They serve as a protective barrier over the teeth to prevent plaque and food debris from building up on the pits and fissures of the tooth. They are usually provided for children because they are more vulnerable to cavities.
Why are sealants necessary?
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), dental cavities often occur in areas that could have benefited from the protection of dental sealants. In fact, sealants have proven highly effective over the years, reducing the occurrence of cavities by 86 percent in the first year and 58 percent after four years. Sealants are usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the molars and premolars, which are the most vulnerable to tooth decay, but the dentist can recommend them for other teeth that may be susceptible to cavities.
Sealants are usually applied on the first set of permanent molars soon after they erupt fully, often around age six. However, any tooth with deep grooves (pits and fissures) can be sealed shortly after erupting. This means that most children get dental sealants between the ages of six and 13. Teeth are particularly susceptible to cavities after erupting, so the earlier the sealant is applied, the better the chances of preventing cavities.
What to expect when getting dental sealants
The process of applying dental sealant is quick, easy and painless. The dentist will clean the tooth thoroughly and etch the tooth’s surface to make the sealant adhere to it. The tooth will be dried completely before painting the sealant over the tooth. The material hardens almost immediately, although the dentist may use a curing light to accelerate the process. Once the sealant hardens, it will blend in completely with the rest of the teeth.
Children must be taught to avoid chewing on ice or hard foods such as candies, as that could damage the sealant and compromise its effectiveness. Sealants are highly durable and can last up to 10 years with proper care. The child’s dentist will examine them during routine checkups and repair or replace them if damaged or worn.
Sealants can be applied over teeth that have suffered decay to prevent continuous damage to the tooth. Since sealants are transparent, the dentist will continue to monitor the tooth to ensure that the sealant is working effectively. Aside from rare cases of allergies to the sealant material, there are no recorded cases of side effects of getting sealants.
Even with regular brushing and flossing, it may be hard to protect the teeth from plaque or food debris adequately. Sealants offer an extra level of protection that can prevent decay and infection that requires costly dental treatments and fillings. Also, they are cost-effective and often cost less than the price of dental fillings. More so, they are usually covered by insurance. If your child’s permanent teeth have started coming in, it may be time to book an appointment with the dentist for dental sealants.
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