When I should place dental sealants on my child’s teeth?
So you are a concerned mom who took her child to the dentist for a checkup and exam. You were told about the many benefits of sealants on baby teeth. Your child’s dentist explained to you how safe and effective dental sealants are. They might’ve even told you have that if you have dental insurance, then dental sealants are a covered procedure. But is getting sealants really the right thing to do? Or does it make more sense to just leave these teeth alone? Or place an actual filling on them instead?
What are dental sealants?
Sealants are a tooth-colored plastic coating dental restoration. They are considered to be preventive treatment, meaning they don’t require any actual tooth removal and are completely reversible. They basically acts to seal and protect high risk teeth in children.
Sealants are typically placed into deep groves located on back teeth, particularly molar teeth. Molar teeth have deep groves that are harder to clean and are vulnerable to trapping food and developing cavities. Sealants cover these groves and reduce risks of developing cavities on these teeth. Sealants are typically applied at 5 to 7 years of age to adult first molars and then at 10 to 12 years of age to adult second molars. Some dentists also apply sealants to baby teeth as well.
Dental sealants are mainly used for children rather than adults. This is because it can be harder for children to access their back teeth and clean them properly. As an adult this becomes less of an issue, so sealants are not very useful for adults in general. Sealants usually last for only a few years and by the time you are an adult, your sealant has most likely disappeared. But don’t stress yourself, the purpose of dental sealants is to protect your teeth while you are still in your growing phase.
Benefits of receiving dental sealants
Sealants protect children’s most susceptible teeth against cavity bacteria
Back teeth, the molars and bicuspids, have deep groves on their chewing surface. These tend to trap lots of food and bacteria. As a result they are very susceptible to developing cavities. Children are particularly at higher risks for developing cavities on these back teeth:
- Children are more likely to neglect cleaning their furthest located teeth. This is usually because it is harder to gain access and place the toothbrush in this region since their jaws are still not fully developed.
- Most children have a sweet tooth and consume sugary products such as candies, chocolate and sodas. This makes their teeth more vulnerable to tooth decay as compared to adult.
Dental sealants come into play here. Children stand to get the most from benefits of sealants. A well placed sealant can cover deeper teeth groves until you child is old enough where they can brush and clean these areas on their own.
Dental sealants don’t damage your teeth
Sealants are generally favored over fillings as a preventive treatment because they don’t require any actual removal of tooth structure. So another benefits of sealants is that unlike fillings, they are completely reversible. Even the most conservative filling will require some drilling and tooth removal. Unfortunately this can be the beginning of a lifetime of problems with the said tooth.
Sealants are an excellent way to help protect teeth without actually damaging it. If your child’s has deep teeth groves which place them at higher risk for cavity formation but has no actual tooth decay, then sealants are preferred to fillings. Keep in mind that once a cavity forms, then you can no longer perform a sealant. You must place an actual filling instead if there is actual tooth decay involved. Sealants are only a preventive measure, and they will not work when there is an actual cavity in place.
Behavioral benefits of sealants on children
Benefits of sealants actually go beyond simply protecting teeth against cavity formation. Your experiences as a child is what makes you into the patient you are as an adult. Experiencing a visit where your teeth are treated without any pain or a needle is a great way for children to build a relationship with their dentist.
A pleasant sealant placement appointment can help them become more comfortable with their dentist. These type of visits also encourage children to improve their oral hygiene routine as well as brush and floss better to help avoid having to get more similar dental work done in the future. Especially ones that unlike sealants, will involve getting a shot!