Do Children's Teeth Benefit From Sealants?

Young GirlKeeping your child’s teeth healthy and strong is always the goal for any parent. Establishing good brushing habits and regular visits to a pediatric dentist are two great ways to keep teeth healthy, but lately, there have been an increasing number of articles about sealants which begs the question:  do children’s teeth benefit from sealants?  Read on to find out!

The Journal of the American Dental Association conducted a review on the use of sealants as well as discussing clinical practice guidelines that have been updated as a result of that review, which indicate the benefit of using sealants to prevent and manage tooth decay in children and adolescents. This same review went on to state that sealants could help reduce tooth decay by over 70% compared to those children who did not have sealants. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry state that sealants reduce cavities by 86 percent after one year and 58 percent after 4 years.  The Council on Scientific Affairs (CSA) recommends dentists use sealants on the primary and permanent molars of all children and adolescents.

While the above provides a powerful argument for sealants, many parents are still unfamiliar with sealants, with one of the most common questions being, what are dental sealants and does my child really need them?  Dental sealants are a quick, easy, and relatively inexpensive (insurance usually covers them from about 80-100%) solution for preventing cavities in children and adolescents.  Applying a sealant is a simple process. It takes only a few minutes for a dentist (or their hygienist, or dental assistant) to apply the sealant to seal each tooth.  While sealants aren’t new, they are becoming the more commonly used treatment for kids who need extra help in preventing cavities. Does this mean diligent brushing is obsolete?  Not at all! It’s still important for children to brush daily to maintain an overall healthy mouth, including healthy teeth and gums. Unfortunately, as many parents experience, not every child is a diligent brusher. They either don’t brush as often as they should, or perhaps not long enough. That’s why The American Dental Association recommends that kids receive dental sealants as soon as their adult molars erupt which is around 6 years old. Parents, feel free to ask your pediatric dentist if sealants are right for your child’s teeth. Dental sealants can last for many years if properly cared for, the research indicates 5-7 years on average. The dentist checks sealants as part of the routine dental checkup every 6 months.

Dental sealants have been proven to be safe, with more and more dentists recommending the procedure. Unfortunately, dental sealants are still underused in many dental practices today, despite the documented benefits. Even more interesting is the fact that studies show that many children are exceptional candidates for dental sealants. Typically, it is recommended that children have sealants placed on their permanent molars and premolars (if they are groovy) as soon as these teeth come in. The sealants can protect the teeth through the cavity-prone years. In some cases, a dentist might recommend it for your child’s baby teeth if the baby teeth have deep pits and grooves. Baby teeth save space for permanent teeth so it’s important to keep baby teeth healthy so they don’t fall out prematurely and have spacing issues.

Of course, dental sealants, though effective, are only one of several efforts parents can undertake to keep their kid’s teeth healthy. Children still need to visit the dentist regular to make sure there are no other changes or concerns that need to be addressed. Keeping sugary snacks to a minimum will also go a long way to keep cavities at bay. Get children in the habit of brushing right after they eat, and encourage them to floss regularly.

There are many reasons why children’s teeth benefit from sealants. Talk to your pediatric dentist to see if sealants are an option for your child and to learn more about the procedure.