The most common question asked by our patients, particularly those with young children, is what is the best preventative measure to ward off cavities? While we all know that brushing and flossing are vitally important, sometimes we need to rely on outside methods to add another protective barrier.
Today we will walk you through the benefits of sealants and how applying them to your premolars and molars can decrease the prevalence of cavities in the mouth. If this something that you are interested in, ask us at your next appointment or give us a call today for a consultation.
Who’s a candidate for sealants?
Children and young adults are both candidates for sealants; however, it is generally recommended to get them when you’re younger. Since sealants protect the tooth from a cavity, it’s important to seal them as soon as possible to prevent the creation of decay.
Think of a sealant like a raincoat; you want to put the coat on prior to getting wet, not after the first few sprinkles. The same is true for your teeth. Studies have shown that it’s beneficial to begin the process right after the 6-year molars pop through.
How do sealants work?
Sealants provide a protective cover for your molars—the teeth that are most susceptible to cavities due to their deep grooves. The procedure to apply the sealant is both quick and painless. An acidic gel is placed on your dry tooth to rough up the surface for better application of the sealant itself. Once the gel dries and excess is washed off, the sealant itself is applied to the tooth. Modern sealants are typically resin based and glass ionomer based.
A UV light is then used to harden the sealant to the tooth. Once the sealant is applied, it acts as a barrier against food particles infiltrating the deep grooves of your teeth.
Are sealants scientifically proven to work?
Since not all dental plans cover sealants, many of our patients are concerned about out-of-pocket costs on procedures that are not “necessary.” However, after numerous case studies on this topic, it has been determined that sealants do reduce the risk of decay by nearly 80% in molars. The Centers for Disease Control released a report touting the benefits of sealants and concluded that “school-age children without sealants have almost three times more cavities than children with sealants.” As of 2016 only 43% of children has sealants, but that number continues to grow as more parents become aware of the benefits for their children.
Do sealants last forever?
Unfortunately, no. Right now experts encourage new sealants to be placed every couple of years. As with anything, constant chewing can wear them down, and their ability to keep food particles out of deep grooves diminishes.
Will my insurance cover this?
You will need to talk to your insurer directly since some plans do cover sealants and others don’t. Consider using your FSA or HSA account if you plan doesn’t cover it directly. In the long run, sealants will save you money and protect your teeth, so it’s an investment up-front that can save you in the long run.
While nothing can take the place of brushing and flossing, sealants are a great additional to ensure your mouth stays clean and healthy. Combine these three elements with bi-annual trips to the dentist, and you will have a complete dental plan that will set the foundation for excellent oral health for many years to come.
Also published on Medium.