It’s likely at some point your dentist will recommend sealants for your child. The anatomy of the back molars is such that they have deep grooves and fissures on the chewing surfaces. Bacteria and food become trapped in these crevices, beyond the reach of the toothbrush. As a result, these surfaces have a high likelihood of forming cavities. Preventive sealants were developed to minimize the risk of cavities on these chewing surfaces. Sealants are routinely recommended on the 6 and 12-year permanent molars and occasionally for the primary (baby) molars. Although helpful in preventing cavities on the chewing surfaces of the molars, sealants do no protect against cavities between the teeth.
Sealants are applied via a multi-step process of acid etching, bonding and resin placement, which hardens with a curing light. Local anesthesia is not needed, and your child may eat immediately after sealant application. Sealants need to be monitored by the dentist every six months to ensure the sealants have not dislodged. Following sealant placement, specific dietary instructions will be given, and sticky candy avoidance will be emphasized. Sealants typically need to be replaced as they wear and the timeframe for replacement is highly dependent on the child’s diet and oral hygiene. When maintained, sealants are cost-effective and continue to be a preventive mainstay in pediatric dentistry.