If your child has deep pits and grooves on their back teeth (molars), your dentist may recommend sealing your child’s teeth. Sealants are thin protective coatings painted on the chewing surfaces of the molars to prevent tooth decay.
Even if your child has excellent oral hygiene habits, it is not always easy to clean the deep grooves on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. Food and germs can get stuck in the grooves where the toothbrush bristles won’t be able to reach. This may lead to a cavity on the chewing surface of the tooth.
Sealants are generally recommended for first and second permanent molars. The first permanent molars typically come in around age six and are referred to as “six-year molars.” The second permanent molars come in around age twelve and are referred to as "twelve-year molars.” Sealants are not routinely applied to baby teeth; however, your dentist may recommend sealing a baby molar that has very deep grooves and is at risk for tooth decay.
What Can You Expect for Your Child During the Procedure?
Applying sealants to the teeth is a quick and painless procedure. First, the tooth is cleaned to make sure all the food particles and germs are removed from the grooves. Next, a special gel is placed on the chewing surface for a few seconds and then rinsed off with water. The tooth is dried and painted with a thin layer of liquid dental sealant material which may set on its own or by shining a special light on the tooth for a few seconds to help harden the sealant. It takes only a few minutes to seal each tooth.
What Can You Expect for Your Child After the Procedure?
Sealants are typically clear, white, or slightly tinted in color and usually are not visible when a child talks or smiles. Your child‘s bite may slightly feel different after placement of sealants based on the material used, and that is normal. The bite will adjust after a few days. It is okay to eat and drink immediately after sealant placement and there are no special precautions. Sealants can last for many years - anywhere between five to ten years. However, they may wear or chip over the years and need touch ups at regular check-up visits.
Homa Amini, DDS, MS, MPH, is a member of the Section of Pediatric Dentistry at Nationwide Children's Hospital and an associate professor of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry at The Ohio State University College of Dentistry.
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