Sealants are thin, plastic coatings that are painted on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. These teeth are most likely to form cavities because sugar gets trapped in the grooves of the teeth. Getting sealants put on is simple and painless. Sealants are painted on as a liquid and quickly harden to form a shield over the tooth. Sealants are put on in dentists' offices, clinics, and sometimes in schools. In Maryland, dentists and dental hygienists can screen and provide sealants in school settings with parental consent.
Talk to your dentist, dental hygienist or contact your public health program. Many schools are served by dentists and dental hygienists who screen and provide dental sealants to children during the school day. Children must have parental consent to receive dental sealants at their school.
Most dental health insurance programs pay for sealants. Medical Assistance (Maryland Healthy Smiles Program) covers and pays for dental sealants on permanent molars for age eligible and enrolled children.
The most important reason for getting sealants is to avoid tooth decay. Fluoride in toothpaste and in drinking water protects the smooth surfaces of teeth but back teeth need extra protection. Sealants cover the chewing surfaces of the back teeth and keep out germs and food. Having sealants put on teeth before they decay will also save time and money in the long run by avoiding fillings, crowns, or caps used to fix decayed teeth.
Germs in the mouth use the sugar in food to make acids. Over time, the acids can make a cavity in the tooth.Poor oral health can impact a child’s speech, school attendance and self-esteem. So it is important to prevent decay. That's why sealants are so important.
The chewing surfaces of back teeth are rough and uneven because they have small pits and grooves. Food and germs can get stuck in the pits and grooves and stay there a long time.
Sealants can last up to 10 years. But they need to be checked at regular dental check-ups to make sure they are not lost, chipped or worn away. The dentist or dental hygienist can repair sealants by adding more sealant material.
Using fluoride toothpaste and drinking fluoridated water can help protect teeth from decay. In Maryland, 97.2% of households that are served by community water receive fluoridated water. If you know that your water is not fluoridated, a dentist or physician can prescribe a fluoride vitamin for your children in the form of drops or tablets. Most toothpastes and mouthrinses with fluoride can be found in stores but if your children's teeth need more fluoride to stay healthy, a dentist can prescribe it in the form of varnish, or stronger toothpaste and mouthrinse. Fluoride is the best defense against tooth decay!
Fluoride helps the smooth surfaces of the teeth the most. It is less effective on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. Brushing regularly, with fluoride toothpaste, helps prevent tooth decay. Sealants and fluoride together can prevent almost all tooth decay.