Children are especially susceptible to tooth decay. Poor brushing habits, along with high intake of sugary foods and beverages, can lead to decay. Dental sealants are used as the leading preventative treatment, helping to protect new adult teeth in children’s mouths and to promote great oral health. In fact, most dentists agree that dental tooth sealants for children represent the primary approach to preventing premature tooth loss.
What are Dental Sealants?
Dental sealants are much like fingernail polish in that they are generally brushed on in liquid form and then cure to produce a hard surface. Sealants are typically found in two categories: plastic resin-based or glass ionomer-based. Resin sealants are set using specialized ultraviolet light sources or visible light-producing instruments; the liquid sealant cures in seconds. Resin-based sealants are the most common in dental practices around the country.
Why Use Dental Sealants?
Human teeth have natural grooves, depressions, and fissures. These areas can collect the bacteria and food acids that lead to dental caries, or cavities. Dental sealants fill in microgrooves and fissures, preventing tooth decay from forming. In children, the back adult teeth are most susceptible to decay, and sealants are seen as a preventative barrier that can ward off future tooth extractions or restoration by protecting the tooth surfaces.
How are Dental Sealants Applied?
In both children and adult patients, the dental professional will first carefully clean the tooth surfaces, then dry those surfaces thoroughly. The liquid form of the sealant – typically some form of plastic resin – is then applied on the tooth or teeth using a swab or small brush. Then, a light source is applied, curing the resin into a hard and durable surface that protects the teeth. Curing takes place in as little as 30 seconds. Properly applied and cured, these dental sealants can last for years, especially if the patient does not chew on ice or hard candies, which can damage the resin layers. Dentists will inspect the sealed areas at regular checkup appointments.
A dental sealing appointment takes only 30-40 minutes to complete and is painless for the patient. The patient may experience unpleasant flavors or odors during the application and curing process, but these effects are minimal and last only a few seconds.