Q. What are dental sealants and when and why should kids get them?
A. Sealants help prevent cavities on the chewing surface of permanent teeth, explains Dr. Howard Schneider, a pediatric dentist with offices in Huntington and East Northport. They reduce the chance of cavities by about 70 percent, he says.
Baby teeth are smoother on top, so sealants aren't usually used on them. But permanent back teeth have grooves and crevices where food and germs can gather and cause cavities. So when the first permanent molars come in, usually around ages 6 to 7 1/2, those four teeth should be sealed, and when the second permanent molars come in at age 12 or 13, those four should be sealed as well, Schneider says. Most insurance companies cover sealants up to age 14, he says.
The sealants are the same kind of white, bonded material used to fill cavities, but more liquid in consistency. During the painless procedure. dentists paint on the liquid, which fills in the grooves and crevices. Sealants don't eliminate the need to brush. "You still have the gumline, you still have between teeth," Schneider says.
Four or five years ago, some parents worried about getting sealants for their kids because of concerns they might contain BPA. BPA is a chemical that might have health effects on the brain, according to the Mayo Clinic. "As far as I know, most of the sealants manufactured in the United States don't have it anymore," Schneider says. If concerned, ask your child's dentist about ingredients.