What Are Dental Sealants, and When Are They Recommended for Kids?

dental sealants for kids

As parents, we take our kids’ oral hygiene seriously. After all, we want them to have healthy and happy smiles. But did you know that there is yet one more thing you can do to protect those pearly whites? Of course, teaching your kids to brush, floss, and rinse is critical. And taking them to the dentist every six months for a professional dental cleaning and oral evaluation is an essential part of preventive dentistry. 

Dental sealants, however, are one more trick in your dentist’s toolbox that can help prevent tooth decay.

What are dental sealants for kids?

Dental sealants were introduced back in the 1960s as a way to help prevent cavities. Sealants are thin coatings that the dentist paints onto the back teeth. The coating flows into the deep grooves of the teeth and hardens almost immediately. In most cases, sealants are applied to the permanent molars, teeth that kids don’t get to quite as well when they are brushing.

Dental sealants are intended wholly to prevent tooth decay. The fluoride in your child’s toothpaste and in the water they drink helps to smooth out the surfaces on the teeth, but as we said, those back teeth are harder to get at, so they need extra protection. We like to tell parents and their children that sealants work like raincoats. A raincoat keeps you and your body dry when it is raining outside. Sealants, on the other hand, help to keep harmful oral bacteria from sticking to the teeth and turning into plaque that can contribute to tooth decay.

Based on studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sealants prevent 80% of cavities over two years on those back teeth. Unfortunately, dental sealants are still widely underutilized; only 4 in 10 children between the ages of 6 to 11 years have dental sealants on their permanent teeth. Sealants are a great way to eliminate the necessity of expensive or more invasive dental treatments down the road. And when left untreated, cavities can be painful and lead to infection, not to mention problems speaking, eating, and learning.

Are dental sealants safe for kids?

It’s only natural to wonder if dental sealants are safe, especially when less than half of the eligible children in the United States have them. And thankfully, dental sealants are indeed safe. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), there is a small amount of BPA (Bisphenol A), but not enough to cause any harm to your child. You are believed to come into more contact with BPA in everyday activities than your child is with sealants.

Will my child experience any side effects from dental sealants?

The process of getting dental sealants is completely painless and takes only a moment or two per tooth. The only known side effect is allergies, but this is extremely rare. With such little risk, dental sealants are an excellent tool for cavity prevention. And, of course, we will take all the necessary steps to ensure your child is comfortable at the dentist.

When should my child get dental sealants?

Parents often ask us when dental sealants are used. As we said earlier, dental sealants are applied to the permanent molars when they come in. This means dental sealants are applied to the first molars around age six and the second molars around age 12. Sealants can only be applied to molars that are in generally good health. 

According to the ADA, sealants can be applied to teeth that have early signs of decay to prevent it from getting any worse. Because sealants are clear, the dentist can still keep an eye on the tooth to be sure the sealants are doing their job. This said, if your child has a dental crown, they cannot have dental sealants, but luckily crowns cannot get cavities anyway, so they are not needed.

With proper oral hygiene, dental sealants should last up to ten years. Your dentist at Omaha Pediatric Dental Specialists will check on your child’s dental sealant health at each dental visit. The dentist can reapply if the sealants have worn down too far.

Visit Omaha Pediatric Dental Specialists to learn more about dental sealants for kids.

If you have a young child and you’re ready to provide them with that one extra layer of cavity prevention, our team is here to help. Our associates in pediatric dentistry are well-versed in all aspects of the dental sealant process and would love to help protect your child. So, whether your child needs sealants or is due for their six-month professional dental cleaning, now is the time to request an appointment with Omaha Pediatric Dental Specialists. We look forward to seeing you and your child.