dental sealants

Childhood Dental Sealants for Cavity Prevention

In Children's Dentistry by Dr. James James III DDS

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Dental sealants are a layer of plastic that goes on the chewing surface of the tooth to create a strong seal. This seal helps prevent food and bacteria from getting into small grooves and ridges on the tooth where it can be difficult for your toothbrush to reach and where decay is most likely to occur. Sealants protect the biting surface of a tooth from cavities and damage, particularly in young teeth with weak enamel. Sealants are most beneficial to young children who have not yet developed optimal brushing habits.

Not all of your child’s teeth require sealants. In most cases, only the surfaces of molars, or the large teeth in the back of the mouth, need sealing. These teeth have large, mostly flat surfaces with deep ridges in the center that are ideal for sealants. Children who are at high risk for cavities may also benefit from having their premolars sealed for extra preventative care.

When Should Children Get Sealants?

Most children get their first set of adult molars around six to seven years of age and the second set around eleven or twelve. Ideally, teeth should be sealed as soon as they emerge to prevent any potential issues before they occur. Young teeth have much weaker enamel than is found in adults, and thus are at higher risk for cavities and decay. For sealants to have the greatest preventative impact, the earlier the better.

About the Dental Sealants Procedure

In most cases, dentists can seal four molars in under 20 minutes. Since molars emerge in groups of four (two top and two bottom) children will ideally have this short 20-minute procedure as each set of molars emerge, about five years apart. The procedure is painless and simply requires sitting with their mouth open for a brief stretch of time.

Caring for Teeth Post-Procedure

Sealants are not a substitute for thorough brushing of your child’s teeth. Sealants only protect the biting and chewing surface of the tooth and do not make your child’s teeth invincible. They do not protect the sides of the tooth or surfaces between teeth. It is still possible to get cavities in a tooth with a sealant, so brushing and flossing are still critical parts of dental care, even with a complete set of sealants.

Adults who receive sealants as a child commonly maintain them well into their 40’s and 50’s. The bonds of a sealant are very strong and can provide nearly a lifetime of protection for the tooth. While sealants are a great extra layer of protection for adults, they provide the greatest benefit in young mouths where teeth are still hardening and at the highest risk for enamel damage.

As people age, it is possible for dental sealants to chip or come loose. Some people worry that this increases their risk for tooth decay, but this is actually very uncommon. Older teeth are much stronger than young teeth and at a much lower risk for cavities and decay on the chewing surface. Sealants rarely chip before the age of 30 and typically do not require reapplication.

Dr. James at Hidden Valley Dentistry highly recommends dental sealants for children. They are a wonderful tool for cavity prevention as kids learn the proper dental hygiene habits that will help keep their smile clean and bright for years to come.

Hidden Valley Dentistry is committed to providing excellent dental care to the Roanoke, VA area. Dr. James and Dr. Dereyle have over 50 years of combined dental experience, and our practice has been well-respected throughout the community for decades. Each member of our kind and welcoming staff strives to continue making our community smile even brighter! Schedule a dental appointment with us, and we’ll bring your smile to life.

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