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February is Children’s Dental Health Month and it’s the perfect time to encourage and educate the benefits of good oral health. This year’s theme is “Sealants Make Sense.” There are many ways to maintain your oral health. Consistently brushing and flossing are excellent ways to add a sealant for extra coverage.

Let’s look at what sealants are. Dental sealants are a coating placed on the chewing surface of the back teeth (molars) which can prevent cavities for many years. The way it works is the thin layer acts as a shield from cavities by blocking out germs and food. Once it has been applied, the sealant protects against 80% of cavities for two years. It protects against 50% of cavities for up to 4 years.

Once a child’s permanent molars come in around ages 6-12, they can receive sealants to prevent cavities. Receiving a sealant is painless and easy; the tooth is cleaned, and a gel may be placed on the chewing surface for a few seconds. Next, the tooth is rinsed and dried, and the sealant is coated on. The dentist or dental hygienist also may shine a light to help harden the sealant. Sealants typically cannot be seen; they are very thin and transparent, white, or slightly tinted. Sealants can still work for up to 9 years but should be checked regularly by your dentist. Sometimes sealants do fall off, if the protective shield is gone, the tooth can get a cavity, but they are easy to replace.

Always ask your dentist about ways to maintain your child’s oral health, from toothpaste with fluoride, flossing, brushing, or sealants.