Dental sealants protect kids' teeth

Dental Sealants for Children: Why Toothpaste Is Not Enough

Dental Sealants for Kids

You know the basics of good oral hygiene: brush your teeth twice a day and remember to floss. No matter how often you repeat these words to your kids, you can’t always be sure that they’re cleaning every tooth surface every time they brush. Unfortunately, if they don’t keep all their teeth clean, they can easily develop tooth and/or gum issues. 

Dental sealants provide a simple way to protect the back molars,  which aren’t always easy to clean. To help you decide if this preventive dental measure is right for your child, this article covers everything you need to know about dental sealants.

What are dental sealants?

The American Dental Association (ADA) refers to dental sealants as “raincoats for your teeth.” When your child gets sealants, their dentist will apply an invisible resin coating over the chewing surface of the back teeth to minimize the likelihood of developing cavities. The dental sealant acts as a defensive layer between the enamel and harmful acids, making it an effective preventive measure for safeguarding your child’s oral health.

How do sealants work?

The most likely place for cavities to develop in your child’s mouth is in the teeth at the back of the mouth. Take a moment to run your tongue over that particular area. Do you feel the pits and grooves? The chewing surface isn’t as smooth as that of your front teeth, which makes them more susceptible to plaque bacteria that build up when food particles become trapped inside the crevices. 

That’s where dental sealants come in. By “sealing” out bacteria, food, and other cavity-causing substances from the grooves and pits, it becomes easier for your child to keep their back teeth clean and protect them from decay and cavities.

What advantages do sealants have over routine dental care?

While dental sealants are in no way a replacement for good oral hygiene, even the most consistent, thorough toothbrushers can’t always reach all the way into the dark, moist nooks and crannies of those back molars. And since the newly erupted permanent teeth of a child aren’t as resistant to tooth decay as that of an adult, it creates the perfect conditions for harmful bacteria to flourish. 

Fluoride, a mineral found in toothpaste, could help strengthen the enamel and make it more resistant to decay, but again, it can be hard for your child to consistently get toothpaste into all the crevices at the back of their mouth. But with dental sealants, the chewing surface of the back teeth stays protected from plaque and food particle buildup. 

The translucent coating also makes it easier for antibacterial mouthwashes to remove any leftover particles from the area that can continue to form plaque, reducing your child’s risk of experiencing dental problems.

Who is eligible for dental sealants?

Most family dentists recommend that children between the ages of six and 14 receive dental sealants. For most kids, the first molar breaks out at around age six, and the second one appears at age twelve. Sealants are more effective when your dentist seals these teeth as soon as they break through the gumline, protecting them from tooth decay right from the beginning. 

Children with baby teeth that have deep grooves or pitted areas may need to get dental sealants even sooner. Though this is typically a preventive measure reserved for kids, adults at risk of developing cavities may also benefit from getting sealants.

How long do dental sealants last?

Well-maintained dental sealants can protect your child’s teeth for a minimum of three to five years and can last as long as 10 years without needing reapplication. Because molars receive the brunt of the force when you bite down, wear and tear of the back teeth happens faster than that of the front teeth. 

That’s why your pediatric dentist will check on the dental sealants each time your child comes in for their biannual dental appointment. Damaged or excessively worn sealants can trap decay-causing bacteria under the coating, which can lead to the formation of holes in the teeth over time. 

To help your child’s dental sealants last longer, encourage them to avoid teeth-damaging behaviors like chewing ice cubes and popcorn kernels or opening tough packaging with the teeth. Practicing good oral hygiene can also increase the longevity of your child’s sealants. Nevertheless, if damage does occur or if the protective shield wears away, your child’s dentist can quickly and easily apply a new coating over the old sealant and make adjustments as needed.

A family dentist near Anchorage, Alaska, can help.

If you think dental sealants might be a good option for your child or if it’s time to have your sealants reapplied, our family dentist near Anchorage, Alaska, can help. Dr. Rob, Dr. Millie, and the whole dental team at Valley Dental Clinic are committed to providing each patient with personalized, quality care. We invite you to schedule an appointment with us, and we look forward to helping your family achieve their dental health goals.

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