Half of all children have one or more cavities by the time they turn five. But that doesn’t necessarily mean their dental hygiene is lacking. The truth is that removing food from the deep crevices in molars is challenging, no matter how diligent children are about brushing.
Fortunately, you can protect your child’s molars with dental sealants. Sealants form a shield over the molar, blocking food and germs from entering the crevices.
Roy Hudgens, DMD, and the team at Hudgens Dental, located in Charleston, South Carolina, often recommend sealants during general dentistry checkups because the protection reduces your child’s risk for tooth decay by 80%.
Dental sealants coat the chewing surface of molars. These teeth have an uneven surface with pointed cusps that help break down food when you chew.
It’s challenging to brush away the food stuck in the deep grooves. Bacteria thrive on the food and release acidic wastes that erode the tooth and cause cavities.
Dental sealants are composite resins in fluid form. After we brush the fluid on the molar, it seeps into all the tooth’s nooks and crannies and covers the surface. Then, it bonds with the tooth enamel and hardens into a protective shield.
Sealants are thin, so your child can’t feel them, and they don’t affect chewing or biting. You also can’t see the sealant because it’s either clear or tinted to match the tooth’s natural color.
The protective cover becomes part of your child’s molars, preventing food and bacteria from entering the crevices and decaying their teeth.
Applying a dental sealant is painless and easy. The process involves four steps, which we repeat for each molar:
We clean the tooth and place pieces of gauze on both sides of the molar to keep it dry.
We brush a mild acidic gel on the molar, leave it on for a few seconds, and then rinse it off and dry the tooth. The acid roughens the enamel, allowing the sealant to create a strong bond with the tooth’s surface.
Using a brush, we apply the sealant to the tooth to ensure the entire chewing surface is covered.
For the final step, we shine a blue light on the tooth. The light quickly cures and hardens the sealant.
Baby teeth need protection because the enamel is thinner than permanent teeth, making them vulnerable to decay. The best way to prevent dental problems is to apply the sealant as soon as their molars emerge.
The first baby molars come in around 13-19 months. However, young toddlers may have difficulty tolerating the procedure.
The second set of baby molars typically appears between 23-33 months. At this point, there’s a better chance your child can manage the sealant procedure.
Children should have their first dental appointment by their first birthday. After meeting your one-year-old and evaluating their general dental health, we can determine if they need sealants applied to their baby teeth.
The first set of permanent molars appears around age six. At this age, most children can easily sit through the sealant treatment.
Dental sealants can chip if your child chews on hard objects like ice cubes or loosen if they eat sticky candies. Otherwise, dental sealants last about 10 years.
We check the sealants at each dental checkup to ensure they’re still in good shape. If a crack or other problems develop, we can touch up the sealant or replace it for ongoing protection.
Do you have questions about your child’s dental health? Call Hudgens Dental or use online booking to request an appointment.