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Ask the Pediatric Dentist: What are Dental Sealants and What do They do?

Once your child’s baby teeth are starting to fall out and permanent teeth are beginning to grow in, your pediatric dentist may recommend dental sealants. You may have heard the term before, but many parents aren’t sure exactly what dental sealants are, or how they can help their child.

What are dental sealants and why does my child need them?

Tooth decay, or cavities, is recognized as one of the most common chronic childhood diseases in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 20% of kids between the ages of 5 and 11 have at least one cavity. Another 13% of adolescents between the ages of 12-19 also suffer from untreated tooth decay in at least one tooth.

Left untreated, pervasive tooth decay can cause significant damage to a child’s permanent teeth at a young age, setting the child up for dental health problems into and throughout adulthood.

The good news is that cavities can be prevented with good dental hygiene, but monitoring a child’s brushing and flossing habits can be challenging for parents. Dental sealants are a preventive measure your pediatric dentist may recommend when brushing and flossing alone are not enough to keep your child’s teeth healthy.

Dental sealants are a thin, protective layer made of plastic your Summit Dental Center dentist applies to your child’s teeth. Usually, dental sealants are used on the back teeth (molars), because they are especially difficult to keep clean thanks to deep ridges and their hard-to-access location in the mouth. They can prevent up to 80% of cavities for several years by protecting your child’s teeth from harmful bacteria build-up.

What is the best age to get dental sealants?

Summit Dental Center pediatric dentists typically recommend dental sealants for children between the ages of 5 and 14 – the ages when permanent teeth grow in and most kids are especially prone to developing tooth decay.

In some cases, your child’s dentist may recommend dental sealants for baby teeth. Baby teeth are important placeholders for permanent teeth and if they decay or fall out too soon, it may affect healthy jaw development and spacing for your child’s permanent teeth.

Even cavity-prone adults can benefit from dental sealants on healthy molars. Unfortunately, dental sealants are ineffective on previously restored teeth with fillings.

How does the pediatric dentist perform the dental sealants procedure?

The application of dental sealants is a pain-free procedure and begins with a thorough cleaning of your child’s teeth. The teeth are then dried, and the dentist will place cotton around them to keep them dry.

Next, your child’s Summit Dental Center pediatric dentist will use an acid solution to rough up the chewing surface of the teeth, which will help the sealant’s adhesion. Following the acid application, the dentist will rinse and again dry the patient’s teeth before painting the actual dental sealant onto the enamel of the tooth. The sealant sticks to the teeth and hardens within minutes, and the dentist may use a curing light to facilitate the process.

How long do dental sealants last?

Dental sealants can help protect your child’s teeth from tooth decay for up to 10 years. Regular dental check-ups are important to check for cracks and fissures in the sealant, which may develop from daily chewing activity (or teeth grinding) and can allow bacteria to gain access to the teeth.

While dental sealants lose some of their effectiveness over time, studies show that

  • Dental sealants reduce cavities by 80% for the first two years
  • They prevent 50% of cavities for about four years after application

According to the CDC, children with dental sealants develop approximately three times fewer cavities than children without dental sealants. The most important aspect of the procedure is your child’s ability to sit still in the dentist’s chair for a few minutes. Properly drying the teeth prior to applying the acid solution and dental sealant is important to maximize longevity.

How much do dental sealants cost?

Dental sealants are an affordable preventative measure to protect your child’s teeth from cavities. The cost per tooth ranges from $30-$60, depending on the amount and type of material used. Considering that tooth decay can be costly to repair – especially if left untreated and a root canal becomes necessary – and a once restored tooth can result in lifelong re-restoration procedures, dental sealants are a cost-effective solution to maintaining healthy teeth.

Are dental sealants covered by dental insurance?

In most cases, yes! The majority of dental insurance plans consider dental sealants a preventative procedure, meaning they fall into the same category as preventive check-ups and cleanings. At Summit Dental Center, we find that many dental insurance plans cover 100% of the cost of dental sealants.

Patients without dental insurance, or those who don’t list dental sealants as a covered benefit, are invited to take advantage of our affordable dental financing plans with low monthly payments. No credit check is required!

Dental sealants are an effective and affordable way to protect your child’s dental health for years to come. Call 713-425-0450 to schedule an appointment with a Summit Dental Center pediatric dentist today!