What Are Dental Sealants?
- on May 19, 2011
Sealants are thin, plastic coatings painted on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth.
Sealants are put on in dentists’ offices, clinics, and sometimes in schools. Getting sealants put on is simple and painless. Sealants are painted on as a liquid and quickly harden to form a shield over the tooth.
How are sealants put on?
Why get sealants?
The most important reason for getting sealants is to avoid tooth decay.
Fluoride in toothpaste and in drinking water protects the smooth surfaces of teeth but back teeth need extra protection. Sealants cover the chewing surfaces of the back teeth and keep out germs and food.
Having sealants put on teeth before they decay will also save time and money in the long run by avoiding fillings, crowns, or caps used to fix decayed teeth.
Who should get sealants?
Children should get sealants on their permanent molars as soon as the teeth come in — before decay attacks the teeth.
The first permanent molars — called “6 year molars” — come in between the ages of 5 and 7.
The second permanent molars — “12 year molars” — come in when a child is between 11 and 14 years old.
Other teeth with pits and grooves also might need to be sealed.
Teenagers and young adults who are prone to decay may also need sealants.
Should sealants be put on baby teeth?
Your dentist might think it is a good idea, especially if your child’s baby teeth have deep pits and grooves.
Baby teeth save space for permanent teeth. It is important to keep baby teeth healthy so they don’t fall out early. How long do sealants last?
Sealants can last up to 10 years. But they need to be checked at regular dental check-ups to make sure they are not chipped or worn away. The dentist or dental hygienist can repair sealants by adding more sealant material.
Are sealants new?
No, sealants have been around since the 1960s. Studies by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and others led to the development of dental sealants and showed that they are safe and effective.
But many people still do not know about sealants. In fact, fewer than one-third of children in the United States have sealants on their teeth.
How can I get dental sealants for my children?
Talk to your dentist, state or local dental society, or health department. Sometimes sealants are put on at school. Check with your school about whether it has a sealant program. If you are in Douglas County, Kansas, please call the Douglas County Dental Clinic at 785-312-7770 for more information about sealants!