We typically recommend dental sealants for children as soon as the permanent molars have erupted above the gums. In cases where the child is more prone to tooth decay, we may also advise placement of sealants on premolars (bicuspids), maxillary (upper) incisors, and even baby teeth. The goal of dental sealants is to protect the pits and grooves of the teeth in an effort to prevent the growth of decay. Children are more disposed to cavities in these locations than adults, and protecting them now can save them from larger issues in the future.
One of the challenges of placing successful dental sealants is isolating the tooth we are working to protect. In a perfect world, we would attempt sealants as soon as the tooth has erupted above the gums. However, permanent molars typically erupt around the age of 6. Even though a single tooth can be sealed in a minute or two, a child may not have reached the point where we can maintain isolation from saliva for that long. If it becomes contaminated before completion, the sealant will not last as long.
The expected lifetime of dental sealants last can vary. They may remain on the tooth for only a few years, but sometimes we see remnants of sealants from 10 or more years ago. We usually recommend sealants are maintained until a few years following the eruption of the second molars. But depending on the patient’s dental history and homecare, we may recommend the sealants remain for longer.
Dental sealants are an easy and non-invasive way to protect children from tooth decay. Our hope is by limiting cavities throughout the childhood years, we can greatly reduce the need for larger and more invasive dental procedures as your children grow older. If you have any particular questions about your child’s need for sealants, I encourage you to speak with your dentist and dental hygienist.
For more information on sealants and dentistry for children of all ages, visit www.brownandkupper.com.
Lee T. Brown, DDS
Brown and Kupper, DDS