What are dental sealants?
Sealants are thin coatings painted on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. Sealants are put on in dentists’ offices, clinics, and sometimes in schools. Getting sealants put on is simple and painless. Sealants are painted on as a liquid and quickly harden to form a shield over the tooth.
Why get sealants?
The most important reason for getting sealants is to avoid tooth decay. Fluoride in toothpaste and in drinking water protects the smooth surfaces of teeth but back teeth need extra protection. Sealants cover the chewing surfaces of the back teeth and keep out germs and food. Having sealants put on teeth before they decay will also save time and money in the long run by avoiding fillings, crowns, or caps used to fix decayed teeth.
What causes tooth decay?
Germs in the mouth use the sugar in food to make acids. Over time, the acids can make a cavity in the tooth. Of course a healthy tooth is the best tooth. So it is important to prevent decay. That’s why sealants are so important.
Why do back teeth decay so easily?
The chewing surfaces of back teeth are rough and uneven because they have small pits and grooves. Food and germs can get stuck in the pits and grooves and stay there a long time because toothbrush bristles cannot brush them away.
Who should get sealants?
Children should get sealants on their permanent molars as soon as the teeth come in — before decay attacks the teeth. The first permanent molars — called “6 year molars” — come in between the ages of 5 and 7. The second permanent molars — “12 year molars” — come in when a child is between 11 and 14 years old. Other teeth with pits and grooves also might need to be sealed. Teenagers and young adults who are prone to decay may also need sealants.
Should sealants be put on baby teeth?
Your dentist might think it is a good idea, especially if your child’s baby teeth have deep pits and grooves. Baby teeth save space for permanent teeth. It is important to keep baby teeth healthy so they don’t fall out early.
How long do sealants last?
Sealants can last up to 10 years. But they need to be checked at regular dental check-ups to make sure they are not chipped or worn away. The dentist or dental hygienist can repair sealants by adding more sealant material.
Are sealants new?
No, sealants have been around since the 1960s. Studies by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and others led to the development of dental sealants and showed that they are safe and effective. But many people still do not know about sealants. In fact, fewer than one-third of children in the United States have sealants on their teeth.
Besides sealants, are there other ways to prevent tooth decay?
Yes. Using fluoride toothpaste and drinking fluoridated water can help protect teeth from decay. Water is fluoridated in about two-thirds of cities and towns in the United States. If your water is not fluoridated or if your children’s teeth need more fluoride to stay healthy, a dentist can prescribe it in the form of a gel, mouthrinse, or tablet. Fluoride is the best defense against tooth decay!
How can I get dental sealants for my children?
Call our office at (978) 745-7363 and ask about sealants.
Click here to watch a video and learn more about dental sealants.
Source: NIH Publication No. 12-489 August 2012Share
About the Author:Since 1972, Salem Pediatric Dental & Orthodontic Associates has provided comprehensive preventive and therapeutic oral health care for infants and children through adolescence including those with special health care needs. We proudly serve the communities of Salem, Lynn, Peabody, Danvers, Marblehead, Swampscott, Beverly, and many more.