Dental sealants are an important way to protect teeth from decay, especially for children. It’s a simple preventive procedure that reduces the risk of tooth decay in molars by up to 80% and can last for years1.
However, data from Delta Dental of South Dakota shows that only 1 in 5 kids aged 6-9 covered by their dental plans are getting sealants. The number is even lower – just 1 in 8 – for kids age 10-14.
It’s time for more parents and dentists to talk about dental sealants. Here are some basics to help start the discussion.
What is a dental sealant?
A dental sealant is a coating painted onto the chewing surfaces of molars or pre-molars2. The chewing surfaces of these teeth contain small pits and grooves that trap food. Food left in these spaces, even after brushing, combines with bacteria to cause tooth decay. To prevent this from happening, sealants are applied and act as a protective barrier.
Why are dental sealants important?
Dental sealants protect teeth from tooth decay, which can lead to cavities. School-aged children who don’t have sealants have 3 times as many first molar cavities as children who receive dental sealants2. Cavities and other oral health issues in children can have far-reaching impacts like problems learning, speaking, eating, and self-esteem3.
How are dental sealants applied?
Applying sealants is an easy and painless procedure. Each tooth to be treated is cleaned and then conditioned to ensure a good bond with the sealant. The sealant material is then applied to the tooth.
When should children get sealants?
Generally, sealants should be applied when children are from 6-14 years old. That’s when the first and second molars are coming in, and it’s best to apply sealants as soon as possible to the new teeth.
How much do dental sealants cost?
Because sealants prevent cavities, which are more expensive to fix, most dental plans cover them for children with little or no out-of-pocket cost. The savings can be significant. Treating a decayed tooth can cost up to $3,000 over a lifetime4.
Preventive dental care for your family is an important part of staying healthy and happy. A survey by the SD Department of Health found that if a child had not been to the dentist in the last year, they were significantly more likely to have untreated decay and significantly less likely to have protective dental sealants5.
Along with a good oral health routine, regular visits to the dentist and preventive treatments like dental sealants will ensure that your family’s smiles stay bright for a lifetime.
Dr. Bruce Wintle practices dentistry at Dakota Family Dentistry in Huron, SD. A Huron native, he returned to his hometown after 20 years of service in the US Army. Dr. Wintle earned his degree at the University Of Nebraska Medical Center College Of Dentistry and completed postgraduate training at the University of Minnesota.