Ask the Expert: What Parents Need to Know to About Dental Sealants
Properly caring for young teeth can protect children into adulthood—should dental sealants be part of the solution?
Parents undoubtedly want to make sure their children are healthy and have all of the advantages they need to support their growth and development. Dental health is a major part of healthy development for children and preventing tooth decay and gum disease are the front lines of this defense. At Jersey City Pediatric Dentistry, healthy habits are our first stop. Let’s start with the obvious: brush teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and remember to floss. Another tool parents can use to help their children maintain good dental health is the application of dental sealants. There may be many questions parents have about this procedure and how it can benefit their child. Here are some common questions Dr. Wilma McPherson receives about dental sealants:
What are they and how do they work?
Dental sealants are coatings made of plastic resin designed to fill in the pits and valleys in young teeth, usually molars. As the child ages, the enamel on their adult molars hardens and they learn to better care for their teeth. Until then, dental sealants offer an additional layer of protection—literally. Food is easily trapped in the deep grooves of molars and the dental sealant coating prevents food particles and bacteria from sticking to chewing surfaces and wearing away the enamel, resulting in dental cavities. Though both very young children and adults can have dental sealants applied, it is generally done during the years after the first permanent molars erupt—around 6 years old—and then again when the second set of permanent molars erupt—around 12 years old.
The procedure is painless and is performed by your dentist or dental hygienist right in the exam room. First, the tooth is dried and an etching solution is applied to prepare the teeth to bond with the resin. The sealant is painted onto the tooth with a brush and, depending on the material of the sealant, a curing light may be used for a few seconds to help dry the material and get it to set.
Is it painful?
Though the procedure is not painful, it does require the child be calm and keep her mouth open to allow the dentist to work. Having a trusted parent or guardian in attendance to help sooth or distract the child from the work going on can make the whole process flow smoothly. Prior to the procedure, the dentist will examine the teeth and remove any debris, plaque or decay. Depending on the sensitivity of the child, there may be some discomfort with this initial procedure.
Is it expensive?
The cost of dental sealant treatment really depends on whether you have dental insurance and the kind of insurance. Most insurance companies do cover this procedure. Contact our Jersey City Pediatric Dentistry office at 201-434-3002 to schedule your appointment and our staff can help you understand what costs you may have specific for your dental plan.
Are there any risks?
A common concern with some dental sealant treatments is that the materials can be made with bisphenol A (BPA), causing levels of this to rise in the 3 to 24 hours after the procedure. The dental sealant resin used by Jersey City Pediatric Dentistry is BPA-free and parents can ask their pediatric dentist about the materials they use before having the procedure. Concerned parents should keep in mind that though BPA exposure is a risk, the Centers for Disease Control states that higher levels are usually found in BPA-containing food and beverage containers. Additionally, the BPA levels associated with dental sealants in saliva drops off quickly and isn’t carried over into the blood stream. The CDC notes that the risk of dental cavities far outweighs the risks from BPA for the procedure.
How are dental sealants maintained and how long do they last?
One of the best things about dental sealants is that they do their job and don’t require special maintenance. Of course, it’s still necessary for your child to take proper care of his teeth! Regular brushing twice daily for at least 2 minutes with an ADA-approved and age-appropriate toothbrush is recommended. Flossing at least once a day is also essential to maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Continue to keep your child’s twice yearly appointments with his pediatric dentist. This ensures proper monitoring of the dental sealant treatment as well as keeping an eye on the health of the teeth that don’t have the protective coating. Remember to maintain good nutrition and drink plenty of water. It is important to continue to make good dietary choices, even with dental sealants in place. Avoid sugary, starchy and sticky foods that promote tooth decay and gum disease.
Properly maintained, dental sealants can provide protection for up to 10 years. If they get worn away or chip, the procedure is easily reapplied. After that, your child's dental practices should be healthy and ingrained habits and his enamel should have reached its full strength.
Though dental sealants are applied to permanent molars, properly caring for your child’s primary or baby teeth is also very important. Why? The idea that since these teeth will fall out anyway, they don’t require the same attention as permanent teeth can be harmful. Dr. McPherson educates parents and children on the importance of primary teeth. In addition to holding space in the jaw for growing permanent teeth, primary teeth play their own role in the healthy development of children’s speech, maintaining proper nutrition and children’s sense of self-esteem. For children who are learning to brush, supervision is key. Children under 10 need to be supervised and children under 5 need physical help to brush properly since some may not have yet developed the manual dexterity to fully clean teeth.
To learn more about dental sealants, schedule an appointment at Jersey City Pediatric Dentistry or stop by the office. In fact, the week after Halloween, parents can bring their children into the JCPD offices to take part in our candy-buy-back program while you have your health and insurance questions answered. During the first week in November, JCPD will pay $1 per pound of candy up to $5 to help encourage kids to give up those sweets for cash and a good cause. The fun treats are then sent to U.S. service personnel and first responders—along with adult dental supplies and cards or letters from our young patients. After the fun of costumes, decorating and candy, the children love the idea of helping make our service men and women smile with a sweet treat.
The friendly front office team at Jersey City Pediatric Dentistry will be happy to share information or help you schedule an end-of-the-year appointment for the kids. Call JCPD at 201-434-3002 or visit us at JCPDentistry.com to learn more about our practice.
Jersey City Pediatric Dentistry is “Where Little Smiles Come to Shine!”