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MomTalk.com November 22, 2017:   The women's magazine for moms about children, family, health, home, fashion, careers, marriage & more


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Dental Sealants: The What, Why, When, and How

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More than likely you have heard that dental sealants are a good idea, but perhaps they have never been fully explained to you. In this article, I will explain what sealants are, why they are used, when they are placed, and how we go about getting them on your child's teeth.

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By Dr. Amey L. Severson

More than likely you have heard that dental sealants are a good idea, but perhaps they have never been fully explained to you. In this article, I will explain what sealants are, why they are used, when they are placed, and how we go about getting them on your child's teeth.

First, sealants are protective coatings that are placed on the permanent molars (the 6 and 12-year molars) to lessen the likelihood of cavities. The sealant material is similar to tooth-colored filling material (composite), but is not as dense. For the most part, you cannot even see the sealant because it's either clear or white in color.

Why is sealant placed only on permanent molars? The chewing surfaces of the permanent 6- and 12-year molars are notorious for becoming decayed. Those tooth surfaces have really deep pits and grooves, which allow bacteria to get trapped and cause a cavity. In some cases other permanent teeth (bicuspids) are sealed. This is done if the dentist determines that those teeth also have really deep grooves and are prone to decay. Baby teeth are not usually sealed, since little children usually can't sit still long enough or be cooperative during the procedure.

Typically molars come in sets of four and they usually emerge about the same time. We like to get the sealants on the teeth as soon as possible; the longer teeth are in the mouth without a sealant the more likely they are to develop decay. The dentist will determine when the teeth are erupted enough to seal and if the child is old enough and ready for a sealant appointment.

I have mentioned a couple of times that sealants need to be placed when the patient is ready. It is actually a pretty simple and quick appointment, but for children who are nervous or have a tendency to gag, it can be a little tricky. First, each tooth is isolated to keep it from getting wet. This is most often done with a piece of cotton. Next, the tooth is cleaned and etched to remove debris and help the sealant stick. Finally, the sealant is painted in the grooves and pits of the tooth and a curing light is used to harden the sealant.

Sealants are a great preventive measure and it is an easy appointment for most children. Just as with any other dental procedure, make sure you ask any questions you have prior to the appointment. Always ask! You and your child should feel comfortable with any treatment that needs to be done.


Dr. Amey L. Severson is a pediatric dentist and owner of Children's Dental Care Specialists



Categories: Children's Health, Health & Wellness,


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