Dental sealants and cavity prevention: What you need to know

In honor of National Children’s Dental Health Month, we asked NHC’s Courtney Gallaway-Deming, RDH, EPDH, BSDH, to explain what dental sealants are, why they are important — and who should get them.

Here’s what she had to say:

A dental sealant is a tooth-colored plastic coating that is placed into the grooves on the chewing surface of permanent molar teeth.

Sealants are placed on molar teeth either in a dental office by a dental team member or at school by a dental hygienist.

Sealants are very effective at preventing cavities in children.

Food and bacteria easily get stuck in the deep grooves on the molar chewing surfaces. The grooves can be so deep that a toothbrush may not be able to clean the base of the grooves.

Bacteria left in the grooves for an extended period of time causes tooth decay. Sealants cover up the deep grooves in the molar teeth.

I like to compare it to the sealant on the edge of a bathtub: It seals between the bathtub and wall so water cannot get in and cause serious problems like mold. Similarly, dental sealants cover up the deep grooves and seal them off so that food and bacteria cannot get stuck and cause cavities.

It is important for your child to have at least one dental checkup every year so that your dentist can determine if sealants are needed.

Dental professionals recommend sealants on permanent molars as soon as they are erupted — typically between the ages of six and 14 — because this is when sealants are most protective.

Each year, dental hygienists go into public schools throughout Oregon to provide sealants for children. You might encounter one of these special programs at your child’s school.

Is your child due for a dental checkup? Call us today to schedule an appointment.