Pediatric Dental Sealants: What Are They and How Do They Work

Dental health is essential for people of all ages, but it’s particularly crucial for children. Poor dental hygiene in childhood can lead to a lifetime of dental problems, including cavities and tooth loss. One way to help protect children’s teeth is through the use of dental sealants. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what dental sealants are, how they work, and their benefits and drawbacks.

What Are Dental Sealants?

Dental sealants are thin plastic coatings that are applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (molars and premolars). These teeth have grooves and crevices that can trap food particles and bacteria, making them more susceptible to cavities. Sealants fill in these grooves, creating a smoother surface that is easier to clean. Sealants are usually clear or white, and they’re not noticeable when a child talks or smiles.

There are two types of dental sealants: resin-based and glass ionomer. Resin-based sealants are the most common type and are made from a liquid plastic that hardens when exposed to a special light. Glass ionomer sealants are less common and are made from a type of cement that bonds directly to the tooth.

Sealants are typically applied to children’s teeth when their molars and premolars first come in (around age six for first molars and age 12 for second molars). The procedure is painless and can usually be completed in one visit to the dentist’s office.

How Do Dental Sealants Work?

Dental sealants work by creating a physical barrier between the tooth and harmful bacteria. The sealant material fills in the deep grooves and pits on the chewing surfaces of the teeth, which are difficult to clean with a toothbrush. By smoothing out the surface of the tooth, the sealant makes it easier for children to keep their teeth clean and prevent cavities.

The procedure for applying dental sealants is straightforward. First, the teeth are thoroughly cleaned and dried. Then, an acidic solution is applied to the teeth to roughen up the surface, allowing the sealant to bond more easily. After a few seconds, the acidic solution is rinsed off, and the teeth are dried again. Finally, the sealant material is applied to the teeth and hardened with a special light.

Dental sealants can last for several years before they need to be replaced. However, they should be checked regularly by a dentist to make sure they’re still intact.

Benefits of Dental Sealants

The benefits of dental sealants are numerous. By creating a physical barrier on the teeth, sealants can help prevent cavities and tooth decay. According to the American Dental Association, sealants can reduce the risk of cavities by up to 80% in the first year after they’re applied. Over time, they continue to offer protection against decay.

Sealants are also an excellent way to protect children’s teeth from damage. Children are more likely than adults to suffer from tooth decay, and sealants can help prevent this. They’re particularly beneficial for children who may not have the best dental hygiene habits or who are at a higher risk of cavities due to their diet or other factors.

In addition to their protective benefits, dental sealants are cost-effective. The cost of a sealant application is relatively low compared to other dental procedures, and it can help prevent more costly treatments down the road.

Potential Risks and Disadvantages of Dental Sealants

While dental sealants are generally considered safe and effective, there are some risks and drawbacks to consider. Some people are concerned about the chemicals used in sealants, particularly bisphenol-A (BPA). BPA is a chemical that has been used in many plastics, including some dental sealants. There is some evidence to suggest that BPA may be harmful to human health, although the level of risk is still being studied. However, it’s important to note that most dental sealants today are BPA-free.

Another potential risk of dental sealants is that they can wear down over time, especially if a child has a habit of grinding their teeth. If a sealant becomes damaged or worn down, it may no longer offer adequate protection against tooth decay.

Finally, some children may experience mild discomfort during the sealant application process. The acidic solution used to prepare the teeth for the sealant can cause a slight tingling or burning sensation. However, this sensation usually goes away quickly and does not cause any lasting harm.

Candidacy for Dental Sealants

Not all children are good candidates for dental sealants. Children who already have cavities or who have damaged teeth may not benefit from sealants. Additionally, children who are very young (under age 6) may not have all of their teeth yet, so sealants may not be appropriate.

To determine if your child is a good candidate for dental sealants, talk to their dentist. The dentist can examine your child’s teeth and recommend the best course of action based on their individual needs.

Preparation for Dental Sealants

Preparing your child for dental sealants is easy. You should encourage them to maintain good dental hygiene habits, such as brushing and flossing regularly. On the day of the procedure, your child should eat a normal breakfast and arrive at the dentist’s office with clean teeth.

During the sealant application process, your child will need to keep their mouth open for several minutes while the dentist applies the sealant material. Some dentists may offer a numbing gel or other mild sedative to help children feel more comfortable during the procedure.

Aftercare for Dental Sealants

After the sealant application, your child can resume their normal activities right away. However, they should avoid eating or drinking anything for about 30 minutes to allow the sealant to fully harden.

To maintain good oral hygiene, your child should continue to brush and floss regularly. They should also avoid hard or sticky foods that could damage the sealants. Regular dental check-ups are also essential to ensure that the sealants are still intact and offering adequate protection against decay.

Alternatives to Dental Sealants

While dental sealants are an effective way to prevent cavities, there are other options available. One alternative is to use fluoride treatments, which can help strengthen teeth and make them more resistant to decay. Another option is to improve your child’s diet and dental hygiene habits to reduce the risk of cavities naturally.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much do dental sealants cost?

The cost of dental sealants varies depending on where you live and the dentist you visit. However, sealants are typically less expensive than other dental procedures and can be a cost-effective way to protect your child’s teeth.

Does insurance cover dental sealants?

Many dental insurance plans cover the cost of dental sealants for children. However, it’s important to check with your insurance provider to find out what your plan covers.

Can dental sealants be removed?

Yes, dental sealants can be removed if necessary. However, it’s typically better to leave them in place unless they become damaged or worn down.

How often do dental sealants need to be replaced?

Dental sealants can last for several years before they need to be replaced. Your child’s dentist can check the sealants at each dental visit to ensure that they’re still intact and providing adequate protection.


Dental sealants are an effective way to prevent tooth decay in children, and our team atTooth Town Dentistry for Kids is here to provide this service for your child. We use only BPA-free sealants and ensure that the sealants are checked regularly to provide the best possible protection for your child’s teeth.

If you’re interested in getting dental sealants for your child, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with us. Our experienced team of pediatric dentists will examine your child’s teeth and recommend the best course of action based on their individual needs. With proper care and maintenance, dental sealants can help your child maintain good oral health and avoid cavities for years to come.