Dental Sealants for Kids: The Pros, Cons, and How To’s

Dental sealants are acrylic-like barriers that block cavity-causing bacteria from the chewing surfaces of back teeth.

While the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends placing dental sealants on your child’s first permanent molars at around age 6, and on the second permanent molars around age 12, it is not a given that every child needs them.

Does my child need dental sealants?
The short answer is, it’s up to you. Dental sealants can help prevent cavities that form in the pits and grooves on the top of back teeth, where more than 75% of cavities form. That said, dental sealants do not offer protection in between or on the smooth surfaces of teeth and are not a guarantee that your child will never get cavities.

What is the procedure?
The procedure is painless and quite simple. First, the teeth that will be sealed are cleaned and roughened with a solution that helps the sealant adhere to the tooth. Then the sealant is painted on and allowed to dry. The whole process takes just a few minutes per tooth, assuming we’re working with a relatively calm kiddo.

How long do dental sealants last?
Most sealants last for several years under the normal wear and tear of childhood chewing. However certain behaviors, like chewing ice, may cause sealants to erode more quickly. Your dentist will look at sealants as part of normal check-ups and may apply more protective coating as needed.

Do you put dental sealants on baby teeth?
We certainly can but we generally don’t recommend it. For one thing, the enamel in baby teeth is immature so sealants don’t stay in place very well. Also, cavities often show up in between rather than on top of baby teeth, and sealants don’t help with that. Placing sealants on small children can also be as difficult as placing a filling because of the squirm factor. So unless there is a strong case for sealants, we recommend practicing good prevention and having regular check-ups to catch things early.

Have a comment or question about dental sealants? Let us know in the comments below.

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