Dental Sealants for Children

The most difficult teeth to keep clean are molars and premolars, the teeth in the back of the mouth.  The chewing surfaces of these teeth are pitted and grooved, which makes them difficult to clean even with vigorous tooth-brushing.  To prevent dental caries (cavities) from growing in children’s molars and pre-molars, many dentists will apply sealants.

Dental sealants are tooth-colored, thin plastic coatings that are applied to the chewing surfaces of teeth.  When the sealant is applied to the surface of a tooth, the surface is protected from decay by keeping bacteria and food particles out of the grooves and pits of the tooth.

In the application of a sealant, no drilling or anesthesia is necessary, as the process is both easy and painless.  The first step in applying a sealant is to clean the tooth.  After this, a gel is placed on the chewing surface of the tooth for several seconds, the tooth is washed and dried, and then the sealant is applied to the tooth.  The sealant quickly hardens and the tooth’s chewing surface is now protected from decay.

When should sealants be applied to a tooth?  According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report, sealants should be applied as soon the tooth erupts because the new tooth isn’t hardened yet and is therefore susceptible to decay.  Research has shown that 90 percent of all dental caries in school-age children occurs in the pits and grooves of molars and pre-molars: the application of sealants  significantly reduces the incidence of dental caries in this age group.

Although sealants  last many years, they still will need to be checked by your dentist every six months as part of your oral health care program.   Should your dentist discover a problem with one of the sealants on the surface of your tooth, he can either repair or  replace the sealant and the surface of the tooth will be protected once more.