Dental Sealants for Kids

5 Key Points About Dental Sealants for Kids
Posted on 10/03/2022
Oct 2022 Blog

Cavities and childhood seem to go hand in hand. The majority of kids between the ages of six and eight have at least one cavity in a baby tooth, while the majority of adolescents develop at least one cavity in a permanent tooth. Tooth decay at any age can lead to serious dental complications, with weak or worn enamel raising the risk.

Fortunately, even kids who have trouble brushing and flossing can avoid tooth decay thanks to dental sealants. These tooth-coloured coatings act as barriers against acids and bacteria. If you want to do everything possible to protect your little one's tooth enamel, check out these questions and answers about dental sealants for kids.

1. How Dental Sealants Work

A dental sealant consists of a thin coating of plastic resin that a dentist paints onto one or more tooth surfaces. Dental sealants usually go over molars or other teeth that feature deep grooves, nooks, and crannies. These areas naturally attract food particles, which then form plaque and attract decay-causing bacteria.

Dental sealants prevent that bacteria from penetrating the enamel and causing cavities. They can also serve as a barrier against acids that might otherwise erode and weaken the tooth enamel. The stronger the tooth enamel, the more easily the teeth can resist decay and damage.

2. Which Kids Can Benefit From Dental Sealants

Most children who can benefit from the age of sealants fall into the six to fourteen age range. Children whose back teeth have especially deep fissures may need dental sealants. Sealants may also make sense for kids who have physical difficulties with brushing and flossing or who struggle with an acid reflux disorder.

Even a younger child may prove a good candidate for dental sealants if the pediatric dentist sees deep grooves in the baby teeth. The baby molars usually do not fall out until age 10 or later. By sealing and protecting those baby teeth early, cavities may be prevented and the teeth can be kept healthy until they naturally fall out.

3. Why Dental Sealants Don't Always Make Sense

Some children have less need for dental sealants than others. For instance, older kids who have developed the manual dexterity and coordination to brush and floss thoroughly can already protect their teeth reasonably well on their own. Kids whose molars don't have deep pits or grooves may not benefit from sealants either.

Not all kids can tolerate the dental sealant process ideally well. Very young children or children suffering from TMJ may struggle to keep their mouths open long enough for the dentist to perform the entire procedure. Other kids may have a sensitive gag reflex that reacts to efforts to seal the back teeth.

Don't fret if your child could benefit from sealants but can't tolerate the process. Your dentist can discuss the situation with you and provide alternative methods for optimizing the child's dental wellness. Options may range from anti-cavity oral rinses and dental hygiene education to simply letting the child grow out of current obstacles.

Dental sealants can't go over untreated dental problems such as cavities. If your child has a cavity, schedule a filling to repair the issue before going ahead with dental sealants.

4. What to Expect From the Dental Sealant Process

When your child goes to the dentist for sealants, the dentist will first brush the teeth with a special gritty toothpaste to remove all traces of plaque and bacteria. The dentist then rinses and dries the teeth completely, using moisture-absorbing materials such as cotton to keep saliva from re-wetting the tooth surfaces.

After the teeth have been dried, the dentist will apply an acidic gel to give the enamel grooves and pits a rough texture. This roughening will help the teeth bond to the sealant. After rinsing and drying the teeth again, the dentist will paint the sealant onto the treated teeth. A special light then cures and hardens the sealant.

5. How Long Dental Sealants Last

When properly applied and cared for, dental sealants can provide enamel protection for many years. However, they eventually lose some of their protective powers as food and bite pressure starts to wear them out. Children can extend the usable life of their sealants by not chewing on ice, biting their nails, or overindulging in crunchy snacks.

Regular check-ups do not just help your pediatric dental team look for dental problems and provide professional cleanings — they also allow the dentist to check the state of your child's sealants. If part of the sealant wears off, the dentist can replace it with a new sealant for several more years of protection.

If you think dental sealants might help your child enjoy healthier teeth from a younger age, talk to the experts at Dentistry for Children & Adolescents. Our pediatric dental team can evaluate your child's teeth, discuss the pros and cons of dental sealants with you, and provide any necessary care to protect your child's dental health. Contact us today.


Dentistry for Children & Adolescents

  • Edina Office - 7373 France Ave. S., Suite 402, Edina, MN 55435 Phone: 952-831-4400
  • Burnsville Office - 14050 Nicollet Ave., Suite 100, Burnsville, MN 55337 Phone: 952-435-4102
  • Eden Prairie Office - 6385 Old Shady Oak Road, Suite 150, Eden Prairie , MN 55344 Phone: 952-932-0920

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