Sealants are a quick and simple way to reduce your risk of cavities that have been around since the 1960s. If we find deep little grooves in your teeth that a toothbrush bristle can’t reach, there’s a very good chance we’ll recommend sealants. A sealant is a little bit of tooth-colored material we apply to “seal” these indentations. This material acts as a protective barrier against food particles and biofilm that tend to collect and cause cavities over time. Generally, we apply them to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth where both grooves and decay occur most often.
The Cochrane Institute published a summary of 34 separate studies looking a the effectiveness of sealants. Overall they determined that applying sealants to the biting surfaces of the back teeth reduces cavities when compared to not using sealants. In one of these studies, they found that 40% of someone’s back teeth develop decay over a 2-year period than sealants reduces this to 6%. In another group where 70% of these back teeth would develop decay over a 2-year period, using sealants reduces this to 19%. Most sealants studies are done on children because the earlier a sealant is placed, the more likely it is to prevent a cavity from forming. It’s never too late, though, and we place sealants on adult teeth every day!
Hygienists usually place sealants. The process is completely painless, and you don’t need to be numb. A lot of the time we place sealants at dental wellness visits, but we’re also happy to schedule a separate appointment for you if you’d like. First, we’ll clean and dry the area that we’re sealing, then apply a gentle etching gel to ensure that strong bond forms between your tooth and the sealant. Your tooth is slippery and smooth without this, so there would be nothing for the sealant to grasp. After a few seconds, we’ll rinse off the gel and dry your tooth before applying the actual sealant material onto the grooves of your tooth. The final step of the process is a few seconds of a special blue light to harden up the material.
Most insurance policies cover sealants for children up to a certain age (usually 16) and some cover them for adults, but that is rarer. Without insurance, we have a special $59 fee for sealants done by a hygienist. When you consider the fact that a filling starts a $319, it makes sense to invest in a sealant. Sealants won’t necessarily last forever, but will often last for several years. We use Clinpro™ sealants which are BPA free and safe for children and adults.