Dental sealants are protective barriers that our pediatric dentists place on cavity-prone tooth surfaces. The deep and narrow grooves and pits on the chewing surfaces of molars are excellent hiding places for small bacteria and the sugars these bacteria like to consume. While sealants are extremely effective, it’s important to note that dental sealants aren’t permanent. How long can you expect them to last?  

A Temporary Protective Tool 

A dental sealant is temporary as it is a surface treatment on a high function surface. It doesn’t go inside of a tooth as a filling does. Instead, you might want to think of it as a protective plastic coating over deep grooves that are harder to clean with a toothbrush.  Sealants essentially “shallow up” the deep crevices on the biting surfaces of teeth. Because it’s just a cover, this coating can get pulled off of the tooth or eventually fall out.   

How Long are Sealants Meant to Last? 

According to the CDC, most dental sealants are effective for at least 4 years, and some last as long as 9 years. But it’s not unheard of for kids to keep sealants on their teeth well into adulthood. They just need to be inspected (and sometimes patched up) at periodic dental cleanings and examinations. 

What Can Cause a Dental Sealant to Fail? 

In most cases, dental sealants fail for one of two reasons. The first is that the tooth isn’t completely dry when placed. But that’s easy for a dentist to catch and correct. The second is that your child eats something very sticky—such as caramel or taffy—which then physically pulls the sealant or part of the sealant off of the tooth.  

Fortunately, there’s good news. If your child’s sealant ever comes loose or falls out, we can touch it up during their dental checkups.  The problem our little patients have is that they won’t know that the sealant is damaged or missing as it is so small, tooth colored and they are installed on the back teeth which are hard to see even with a mirror.  It only takes a few minutes to repair and checking on the integrity of sealants is another reason why regular dental appointments are so important.   

An Important Cavity-Prevention Tool 

Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontic Specialists of Michigan follows the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and advises sealing all permanent molars as soon as they erupt. That’s usually around ages 6 and 12, depending on the child. Best of all, sealants are usually covered at or close to 100% by most dental insurance policies, but they’re still very affordable even without insurance.  

Call us today for more information!