Dental Sealants for Kids: How Do They Work?

Jan 15, 2023

Are you concerned about the impact of tooth decay on your child’s oral health? You’re right to be! Your child’s dental health will impact them for their entire lives. Establishing a healthy mouth from a young age can make all the difference in the future of their shining smiles. While brushing and flossing remain the gold standard for the prevention of tooth decay and gum disease, you may be able to give them a bit of a boost with dental sealants. What are dental sealants and how can they help protect your child’s teeth? We have the answers to your questions right here.

What Are Dental Sealants Made Of? How Do They Work?

Dental sealants are a thin film applied to the surface of your child’s teeth. The ADA divides dental sealant material into two groups: glass ionomers and resin-modified ionomers. Those names are a bit of a mouthful, but they essentially describe the type of reaction that bonds the material to the tooth. Both are applied to the tooth as a liquid during the sealants procedure before undergoing a chemical or light treatment. Treatment activates the reaction that hardens them to the teeth. In both sets of sealant procedure steps, that curing makes the sealants adhere to the tooth so it does not wear off when your child eats or drinks.

The tooth sealant procedure works by filling in the surface of the tooth with the selected material. Pitting in the teeth is an invitation to bacteria to come take up cozy residence in your child’s mouth in those tiny “caves” in the tooth. Sealants prevent bacteria from hiding in the tooth itself and also protect the tooth from the acid produced by bacteria.

Graphic of dental sealants applied to teeth with brushAre Dental Sealants Safe?

This is a very common question for parents when the topic of applying sealants comes up. The answer is yes! Dental sealants are safe for your child’s teeth. The American Dental Association has long held the position that sealants should be applied “on the primary and permanent molars of all children and adolescents to prevent caries.”

The ADA also notes that one of the most commonly stated fears — exposure to BPA — is very small, stating: “It’s less than the amount a person receives from breathing air or handling a receipt.” In short, the ingredients in dental sealants are not going to increase your child’s BPA exposure in any significant way. Considering that the CDC has presented data that sealants can prevent 80% of cavities in a two-year period, we think there are many benefits that improve your child’s health, making dental sealants an effective tool.

Why Does My Child Need Sealants if They Will Just Lose Their Baby Teeth?

While it is true that your child will eventually lose all of their primary teeth (barring any sort of issues), that does not mean you want to let them become damaged before they are gone. There are several important jobs for your child’s baby teeth, and all of them will help their development. Sealants on primary teeth are important for the following reasons:

  • Primary teeth are placeholders.

    They hold space for the eventual eruption of the adult tooth. If your child’s baby teeth fall out before they are ready due to tooth decay, you may end up with orthodontic bills in the future.

  • Our children’s teeth face more bacterial adversaries than past generations.

    Bacteria is the worst thing that can happen to your mouth and its favorite food is sugar. In addition to all the sugary joys that are part of being a child, there is also a significant amount of sugar in so many products you might never suspect. No matter how carefully you monitor your child’s diet, it’s likely you are consuming more sugar than you think. That sugar feeds the bacteria that create plaque and tartar and cause cavities in teeth.

  • Good teeth support good nutrition.

    If you have ever had the misfortune to experience tooth decay, you know one thing for certain — it hurts! Children with tooth decay may struggle to eat due to the pain of a cavity, or even several cavities. By protecting your child’s teeth with dental sealants, you will give them extra protection against tooth decay in addition to their brushing and flossing routine.

  • Good hygiene is a habit.

    While sealants are more of a protective measure than a daily dental hygiene habit, their application does help your child understand the importance of a healthy smile. By protecting their teeth, you give them a little extra help as they learn to master brushing and flossing.

When Can Sealants Be Applied?

The CDC suggests that parents have their dentist apply sealants on 6-year molars. A second coat of sealant is also recommended when the child is 12 years old. This is after their second set of molars have come in.

Protect Your Child’s Teeth with Dental Sealants

We can help you get started with the process of applying dental sealants to your child’s teeth. With so many benefits — improved health, better outcomes, and happier kids — it’s easy to see why the ADA recommends this important treatment method.

Call today to discuss options for your child. We look forward to hearing from you.