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What are the benefits of dental sealants?

Practicing good dental care is an excellent way to protect your teeth and prevent cavities. But try as you might, you can’t reach every part of every tooth with brushing and flossing. This is especially the case with your back teeth, or the molars and premolars, because they are much harder to reach. They also have more nooks and crannies, which is a good place for bacteria to hide.1

So how can you protect those tough-to-clean surfaces of your back teeth?

Dental sealants for teeth

A dental sealant is a thin, clear or tooth-colored coating that is applied to teeth. The coating covers each tooth, and seeps into any grooves, to help protect against cavities.2

Remember, cavities occur when food particles are left behind after eating. The food mixes with your mouth’s natural bacteria and creates a cavity-causing acid.3 Since your back teeth are used to chew and grind what you eat, they have more contact with food. Also, the back teeth have more uneven surfaces making them harder to clean. Sealants can help protect them.

For school-aged children, 9 out of 10 cavities occur in the permanent molars and premolars.4 Sealants have been found to reduce cavities in their back teeth by almost 80 percent for two years.5 The dental sealants continue to protect the teeth against 50 percent of cavities for up to four years.6 In some cases, sealants can protect against cavities to some degree for 5 to 10 years.7 And while it may seem pointless to apply sealants to baby teeth, remember that they hold space for permanent teeth. So keeping them healthy and in-place is important.8

Although usually recommended for children and teens, dental sealants for adults can also be a good idea.9 After all, people of all ages are susceptible to tooth decay, and sealants can help prevent cavities before they start.10 The coatings can also help keep minor cavities from growing.11

How sealants for teeth are applied

Getting dental sealants is simple and painless. Here's what will happen during a typical appointment12:

  1. The tooth to be sealed is thoroughly cleaned, then dried.
  2. The dentist applies an acidic solution to the surface of the tooth. The solution is used to rough-up the surface of the tooth so the sealant will stick.
  3. The tooth is rinsed and dried again.
  4. The dentist paints the sealant into the grooves and onto the chewing surfaces of the tooth.
  5. The dentist uses a special, intense light to bond the sealant to the tooth.

Your dentist will check the tooth from time to time to look for chips or cracks in the sealant. The sealant can be reapplied if needed.13

Dental sealant costs

Dental sealants aren't cheap, but they can be a good investment. The cost ranges from $30 to $60 per tooth, but can be more or less depending on your insurance plan.14

That may sound like a lot, but keep in mind that using sealants can save money over the long term and avoid the cost and inconvenience of repairing cavities with drilling, caps or crowns.15

Are sealants covered by insurance?

Some plans do cover dental sealants for children, teens and adults.16 Some only cover certain teeth.17 Check your benefits summary to see if they are included in your plan. If you are looking for a dental plan, see the article, “Six tips for choosing the best dental plan for your family.” Have a plan, but need a dentist? Read, “Dentist dilemma: How to start searching for the right dentist.

Are dental sealants right for you?

Using a dental sealant for cavities can save the time, money and discomfort. But sealants don't take the place of brushing and flossing. Eating right, plus brushing and flossing as recommended by your dentist will keep your teeth healthy. Adding sealants will help further protect your hard-working molars and premolars.

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