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The Power of Sealants

Kind of gross but an effective teaching method. Here are my daughter's teeth after eating a cracker. See how the back teeth don't have food stuck in the crevices. That's the power of sealants. On Tuesday she got sealants on her first molars during her cleaning visit. She will be 6 years old next month, and those back teeth are her permanent first molars. With proper cleaning and care she will have them the rest of her life. The procedure was covered at 100% with her HMSA children's plan.

What are sealants?

It's a thin protective coating that adheres to the chewing surface of the back teeth (molars). There is no substitute for regular brushing and flossing but they can help prevent decay. In fact, studies have shown sealants reduce the risk of decay (cavities) on molar teeth by nearly 80%. The Centers for Disease Control released a report on the importance of sealants for school-aged children, according to the CDC, "school-age children without sealants have almost three times more cavities than children with sealants." Unfortunately only 43% of children ages 6-11 have sealants.

Who can get sealants?

Children and adults can both benefit from sealants as it makes the back teeth easier to keep clean and reduces the risk of decay. The earlier the better to help prevent decay. Sealants are put on permanent teeth, the first molars usually arrives around age 6, between kindergarten and second grade. The second molars arrive around age 12.

Are sealants covered by insurance?

This depends on the plan but they are typically covered in whole or in part for children. But call your dental office and have them check your plan to make sure what your out of pocket expense would be. Typically this is much less than filling a cavity or pulling the tooth.

Is the procedure painful?

Nope. No shots, no anesthetic. Sealants are such a thin layer placed on the tooth that no anesthetic is needed. The procedure typically takes 30 minutes or less for 4 molars.

How long do they last?

Sealants can fall off the next day, but typically they last for several years before they need to be reapplied. Your hygienist and dentist will check the sealant and can reapply them at the regular cleaning appointment.

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