Should You Get Tooth Sealants for Your Child? A Dentist’s Expert Advice

A child undergoing a tooth sealant procedure.

Article At A Glance

  • Sealants are protective coatings that prevent decay in children’s molars.
  • Highly effective, reducing decay risk by 80%, and recommended for ages 6-12.
  • It is a fast, simple, safe application process.
  • Provide added defense against inevitable childhood tooth decay.

Parents work hard to teach their children about good oral hygiene habits, but most children still develop several cavities before their big teeth come in. Why? One reason might be that children lack the same dexterity as adults, making brushing and flossing less efficient.

Whatever the reason, dental sealants present a great solution that could prevent tooth decay in children. Encouraging ongoing brushing and limiting sugar intake prevents most cavities. However, dental sealants for kids also provide an extra layer of defense.

Learn more about the benefits of sealants for your child in this comprehensive guide from Affinity Dental Chicago’s pediatric dentistry experts.

What Are Tooth Sealants And How Do They Work?

There’s nothing complicated about dental sealants—they’re thin, human-safe coatings of plastic painted onto the teeth.

Dentists will typically apply sealants to the molars and premolars, painting the product onto the grooved surface of these large back teeth. The seal forms a protective coating, which more effectively prevents bacteria and food particles from getting into the tooth to cause tooth decay.

Since young children struggle with fine motor skills, they can’t easily get into these areas. They miss many spots when brushing their teeth, so children are more prone to cavities than adults. Sealants provide extra coverage for those hard-to-reach spots for a few years.

The Benefits Of Tooth Sealants For Children’s Oral Health

Does my child need sealants? Even with the best brushing habits, cavities are prevalent in young children and far less likely to happen with the addition of sealants to the molars. In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, dental sealants for kids may decrease the risk of cavities by about 80%.

The benefits here mainly apply to the molars, where children develop about 90% of their cavities. An October 2016 report by the Centers for Disease Control confirmed that children between the ages of 6 and 11 are three times more likely to develop tooth decay without dental sealants.

Sealants also address existing cavities in their earliest stages to keep tooth decay from worsening.

When Should You Consider Getting Tooth Sealants For Your Child?

Dentists recommend sealants between the ages of 6 and 12. Typically, the first set of adult molars emerges at 6. The second set emerges around 12.

Applying a sealant between the ages of 6 and 14 could protect these adult teeth from tooth decay during this time.

Dental sealants are also available for baby teeth, but only in high-risk cases with infections or related oral health problems.

What To Expect When Getting Tooth Sealants for Your Child?

Parents are usually relieved to hear that applying dental sealants is a fast and simple process, as follows:

  • Thoroughly clean and dry the teeth.
  • Apply an acidic gel to the teeth (to roughen the surface).
  • After several seconds, rinse the gel off.
  • Paint on the liquid sealant.
  • Use a blue light device to harden it.

After a few minutes, the procedure is finished, and your child’s teeth enjoy the benefits.

Are Dental Sealants Safe For My Child? Risks And Disadvantages

In most cases, dental sealants are completely safe. Rarely, a dental sealant may produce a mild allergic reaction.

Another concern to discuss with your child’s dental care team is the BPA (Bisphenol A) in the sealant plastic, where high levels link to thyroid dysfunction and central nervous system disruption. The amount of BPA in dental sealants is very low and returns to baseline levels around 24 hours after application. There are also alternative sealant options.

Frequently Asked Questions About Tooth Sealants 

Our dentist answered some of the frequently asked questions about tooth sealants.

Is it safe for my child to get dental sealants?

Yes, it is safe for your child to get dental sealants in most cases. Sealants for kids produce no adverse effects in most cases and have been a significant part of pediatric dentistry since the 1960s.

How long do sealants last on a kid’s teeth?

The longevity of a sealant on a kid’s teeth depends on the oral health habits involved, but the average is around 10 years. The longevity of dental sealants increases with a good dental hygiene routine and regular visits to the dentist to maintain the sealant.

How long after sealants can kids eat?

After sealants, kids can eat and drink immediately. There is no downtime required.

What is an alternative to dental sealants?

An alternative to dental sealants would be better oral health care. For example, you can protect your child’s teeth from tooth decay by diligently following these steps:

  • Brush your teeth twice daily or after every meal
  • Floss between each tooth daily
  • Rinse with an antibacterial mouthwash
  • Limit sugary foods and drinks (candy, fruit juices, soda, etc.)
  • Get dental cleanings twice a year

These dental hygiene practices are even more effective with the addition of sealants.

How often should kids get dental sealants?

How often kids should get dental sealants depends on their oral health habits and diet. Your child’s sealants should last at least ten years with proper application. Your child’s dentist can reapply the sealant during regular cleanings if needed.

Does My Child Need Sealants? Dental Experts Advice

The benefits of dental sealants are clear and abundant in pediatric dentistry. Instilling good oral hygiene in your child is essential, but not easy. So, sealants offer much-needed protection from cavities for peace of mind.

Tooth decay is common in children. They frequently miss surface spaces, brush for short durations, floss ineffectively, and forget to rinse with mouthwash. Why not consider giving their permanent teeth another line of defense?

Research backs up the efficacy of dental sealants. For example, a 2013 meta-analysis review of sealants preventing dental decay in permanent teeth found that these sealants prevent most cavities for two years and up to four years after the application.

Make An Informed Decision For Your Child’s Oral Health

Dental sealants are a great way to protect your child’s teeth. Call Affinity Dental Chicago at 773-904-7079 to learn more about sealants for kids and our other helpful pediatric dentistry services.


About The Author