Ask Your Pediatric Dentist: What Exactly are Dental Sealants and How Do They work ?

Alpharetta, GA – Dental sealants are a clear plastic coating that is typically placed on the top chewing surface of permanent molars to help prevent cavities.  Sealants are placed on the chewing crevices because the toothbrush alone does not always remove all the sticky food particles off those surfaces, especially if one has deep grooves or crevices.  When a sealant is placed, the sealant material seals the crevices so that the top chewing surface of the tooth is smooth and does not allow food particles to remain behind inside the grooves. Sealants are typically placed around ages 6-12. In order for sealants to last a very long time, it is necessary to continue to brush all the teeth thoroughly and avoid eating hard candy or ice because these foods can crack the sealants and lead for them to pop off.  It is also very important to continue to floss in between your child’s teeth due to the fact that sealants do not protect the in-between surfaces where teeth contact each other.

Sealants are not typically recommended on primary molars due to the shallowness of their grooves.  Since the grooves are shallow, we find that many times the sealants may not hold and typically pop off. However, in certain circumstances, some children may have deeper grooves on their primary molars and sealants may be recommended to help prevent cavities.  In addition, if a young child is at high risk for developing cavities, or has an existing history of cavities, we may recommend sealants on the cavity-free primary molars to prevent future cavities from developing.

The application of sealants is very simple and quick but does require some cooperation from the child so that the tooth remains dry during its placement. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Typically a mouth pillow prop may be placed in your child’s mouth to assist keeping your child’s mouth open, so that the tooth receiving the sealant does not get moist from the surrounding tissues and tongue during accidental closure. A few cotton rolls may also be placed to isolate the tooth receiving the sealant from the tongue, cheeks, and saliva. When the tooth is kept dry, this allows better long-term retention of the sealant.
  2. The tooth is then thoroughly cleaned with a special shampoo, so the dentist isn’t sealing any debris or bacteria against the teeth.
  3. Afterward, a primer layer is placed, followed by the sealant material which is hardened using a special curing light.

After it’s placement, the teeth may feel slippery but once your child begins to eat normally, the surfaces will even out and they won’t even realize the sealants are present. We will then evaluate your child’s sealants at each of their cleaning appointments to make sure they are still present or if they need any touch-up.

After the dental sealants are placed, they can last up to ten years with proper care. They can be an excellent way to stop spreading cavities because they serve as a protective layer between teeth and plaque. Since they go on the top of the teeth, however, it’s still extremely important to brush and floss between teeth. Dental sealants can be also be replaced if they are damaged or removed. Many adults also opt for dental sealants because it helps preserve the teeth.

At Polkadot Pediatric Dentistry in Alpharetta, we can help you decide whether dental sealants are the right choice for your child. Depending on their tooth size and shape, our pediatric dentist, Dr. Nanna, would be happy to place dental sealants for your child. For more information, please contact us to set up your appointment with your pediatric dentist.

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