Children and teens are especially prone to caries or cavities, decay that can cause damage to their teeth. Even with routine brushing, flossing and checkups, some young teeth tend to be more vulnerable to decay than adults. Dental sealants are one preventive option to deter decay in young smiles. So, what are these dental sealants, what are they made of and how do they work?
What Are Dental Sealants?
Dental sealants are a type of preventive dental treatment to help protect teeth from cavities and decay. Decay occurs when bacteria feeds off sugars left on the teeth, creating an acid that can eat through the enamel. Brushing and flossing away food particles and using fluoride products helps protect the teeth from decay, but there are areas where food particles hide, especially on the back molars. These teeth are harder to clean and have deeper crevices where tiny food particles hide to feed decay-causing bacteria.
Dental sealants are used to cover teeth with a protective coating that can lower the risk for cavities. Sealants are most commonly used on back molars in children and teens who are more likely to get cavities. Dental sealants are most effective when they are applied to the molars right after they arrive. Children get their first permanent molars at around age six and their second set at around age twelve. Dental sealants can last for five to ten years, helping protect children from cavities until adulthood.
Applying Dental Sealants
The process of applying dental sealants is quick and painless. Most sealants are made from plastic that comes in a liquid form and hardens on the teeth. A special gel is applied to clean teeth to prepare the tooth for the sealant application. Then the sealant is brushed onto the teeth, just like paint, and allowed to harden. Sometimes a light is used to quicken the hardening process, which only takes about a minute.
Once in place, dental sealants create a coating that protects the nooks and crannies on back molars, helping prevent cavities. Sealants are not noticeable; they come in clear or tooth-colored options that make them almost invisible. As dental sealants wear off from use, they can be reapplied during regular checkups to keep the teeth protected. They are safer and are more cost-effective than filling cavities that are common in children’s molars, which can damage the teeth and result in more expensive dental treatments.
Our team at Mission Bend Family Dentistry wants to help prevent dental issues whenever possible. We offer dental sealants as a preventive option for children and teens to help protect their teeth from decay. Ask about dental sealants at your next checkup.