Dear Dr. Farnsworth, why are sealants suggested for my children during dental appointments? Are they worth the expense and do adults need them as well?
Answer: That is an excellent question. Dental sealants are a great, non-invasive way of protecting back teeth against decay. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) supports the use of sealants in children stating that “… school-age children without sealants have almost three times more cavities than those with sealants.”
Further, the American Dental Association (ADA) concurs and recommends that sealants be placed on children as the adult molars begin to come in. Sealants also have been proven to reduce the caries or cavities in children by up to 76 percent. Thus, sealants are beneficial as a preventive care measure.
How do sealants work?
Sealants are designed to fill in the grooves and pits on the chewing surface of the tooth. By doing this, they prevent bacteria and plaque from being trapped deep in the fissures and pits where the bristles on a toothbrush can’t reach to clean. These pits and fissure cavities are the types of decay that are often asymptomatic and typically difficult to diagnose on an X-ray, inhibiting the start of decay is a good preventive care step to take.
After the teeth are cleaned, a thin layer of resin-based material is bonded onto the top of the tooth, sealing out bacteria and filling in the nooks and crannies of the tooth. For years, dentists have been placing dental sealants on the molars of children to help protect those surfaces. It should be remembered that sealants do wear off with time or can chip away when eating crunching foods. Typically, they can last as long as five years, at which point they might need to be replaced.
Are sealants worth the extra cost?
Consider that dental sealants cost one-third of a restorative filling. By preventing cavities with the use of sealants, you can reduce the likelihood of necessary future restorative care, contain your dental care expenses, and free up your money to use for something fun!
Should adults have their teeth sealed & protected?
Unfortunately insurance companies have played a major role in the thought process that only children should have their teeth sealed. Most insurance companies will cover the cost at 100 percent for patients up to 18 years old. Because, once you turn 18 you no longer are susceptible to decay, right? If only that were true! Unfortunately, as many of you have discovered, dental decay is not deterred by a person’s age.
Dental sealants are a great treatment option for anyone who has deep grooves in their back teeth. For those persons who experience anxiety at the thought of dental treatment, incorporating sealants into your preventive dental care is beneficial to avoid the need for dental care and dental anesthesia shots. Sealants are not recommended for all patients, but they should be taken into consideration if recommended by a dentist they trust and who has their patient’s needs at heart.
Dr. Rick Farnsworth and Jason C. Campbell DDS practice at Cosmetic & Family Dentistry, 139 W. Whipple St., Prescott. myprescottdentist.com