What are dental sealants, exactly?
At some point during your child’s visits to the dentist, your dental professional will likely recommend applying a dental sealant to help prevent cavities. When it comes to any health-related recommendation, it is natural for parents and caregivers to have questions. So, what are dental sealants exactly, how are they applied, and how do they protect against cavities?
What are dental sealants? The sealant itself is a thin, transparent liquid coating. While there are a few different types of sealants dentists use, most are made of a composite resin (mixture of ceramic and plastic compounds). Composite resin is water-repelling, which helps keep bacteria away. For children, the dentist may recommend a glass isomer (GI) or polyacid-modified sealant, which delivers fluoride to the teeth slowly over a long period of time.
How do sealants protect against cavities? Are there health risks? According to the CDC, American Dental Association (ADA), Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, and many other professional organizations, dental sealants are a quick, easy, and painless way to prevent cavities. Dental sealants are typically applied to back teeth (molars) which have deeper grooves and pits compared to other teeth, making it easier for food and bacteria particles to collect. 90% of cavities occur here!
The sealant provides a layer of protection by smoothing out the grooves and pits, making it easier to brush food away. Sealants can protect against 80% of cavities and can eliminate the need for more expensive and more invasive treatments.
How are sealants applied? When applying the sealant, the dentist or dental hygienist will first clean and dry the teeth before applying an etching solution, which roughens the surface of the tooth so that the sealant can hold more effectively. The sealant is then painted on the tooth and hardened with a curing light.
Sealant recommendations: The ADA recommends that children have dental sealants in place immediately after their first and second sets of molars appear (age 6 and 12, respectively). As a preventive treatment, sealants are often 100% covered by most dental insurance plans, including Apple Health (Medicaid). Consult with your child’s dentist to learn more and create a sealant application plan for your child.