When your child is somewhere between the ages of 6 and 12, her dentist will want to apply a dental sealant to her back teeth. “Is this necessary?” you may ask. The safe plastic coating is not a requirement, but there are many reasons to give sealants a giant seal of approval. Alameda Pediatric Dentistry’s Dr. MyLinh Ngo explains.
“Research involving large population samples has shown a 70% reduction in cavities through sealant placement,” Dr. Ngo says. “Sealants act as a physical barrier that blocks plaque from accumulating in hard-to-clean grooves and pits of molar teeth.”
Covered by most dental policies, sealants take just a few minutes to apply, and the process is completely painless. After the teeth are prepped with a mild acid for retention, followed by air drying, the liquid sealant is simply painted on then hardened with a high-intensity light. “This procedure is one of the simplest methods to prevent cavities,” Dr. Ngo says.
According to Dr. Ngo, a properly placed sealant will last several years and protect kids during the most critical years, when they’re still gaining manual dexterity and mastering their oral hygiene. Sealants are placed in an area where the majority of adult tooth decay is present – in the back chewing surfaces.
While sealants effectively provide protection from dental decay, this does not minimize the importance of brushing and flossing. The sealant isn’t applied in the backs and sides of teeth, and regular maintenance at home is still critical.
On the home front, sealants help make brushing molars more effortless. “The fact that they are smooth makes it much easier to clean these teeth and prevents acid from burrowing into the deep, hard-to-reach crevices,” says Dr. Ngo.
Proper sealant application, however, is essential to their effectiveness. “You need a completely dry surface in order for the material to bond well,” Dr. Ngo explains. “Any drop of saliva will compromise the quality of the sealant.”
Alameda Pediatric Dentistry takes extra steps in placing the best sealants possible, using the isolite system (a gadget that combines suction, light, and retraction for the patient) and a monitoring system to track the sealants that have already been placed in their patients.
One concern over sealants is they may expose children to BPA, but according to the American Dental Association, which approved the product in 1976, the benefits of sealants outweigh that risk.