Evidence Says Dental Sealants Improve Children's Oral Health

Looking for an extra weapon to fight tooth decay in your child? Consider dental sealants.

Thorough brushing and flossing helps remove food particles and plaque from the smooth surfaces of teeth, but toothbrushes can't reach all the way into the depressions and grooves to extract food and plaque. Sealants can help protect these vulnerable areas by "sealing out" plaque and food.

A dental sealant is a plastic material that is usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth — premolars and molars. This plastic resin bonds into the depressions and grooves of the chewing surfaces of back teeth and acts as a barrier, protecting enamel from plaque and acids.

In a recent study published in The Journal of the American Dental Association, school-based sealant programs were lauded as an effective public health approach to preventing dental disease.

Even if your child's school doesn't have a sealant program, you can still get him/her sealants. Sealants are easy for your dentist to apply, and it takes only a few minutes to seal each tooth.

The teeth that will be sealed are cleaned then the chewing surfaces are roughened with an acid solution to help the sealant adhere to the tooth. The sealant is then painted onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens.

As long as the sealant remains intact, the tooth surface will be protected from decay. Sealants hold up well under the force of normal chewing and usually last several years before a reapplication is needed. During your regular dental visits, your dentist will check the condition of the sealants and reapply them when necessary.

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What to Expect During a SEALANT Procedure

Placing dental sealants is usually painless and doesn't require drilling or numbing medications.

  1. Tooth preparation – first, the dental hygienist will polish the surface of the tooth to remove plaque and food debris from the pit and fissure surfaces. Next the hygienist will isolate and dry the tooth. Then the hygienist will etch the surface of the tooth, rinse off the etching material and dry the tooth.

  2. Sealant application – the hygienist will apply the dental sealant material to the surface of the tooth with a brush; a self-curing light will be used for about 30 seconds to bond the sealant to the tooth surface.

  3. Evaluation – finally, the dental hygienist and dentist will evaluate the dental sealant and check its occlusion. Once the dental sealant has hardened it becomes a hard plastic coating, and you can chew on the tooth again.

Teeth are sealed, what’s next?

Brushing is still important even after sealants. Try one of these products to help keep your teeth clean and healthy.