Submitted by Jeff Reynolds, DMD, Delta Dental.
Beyond daily brushing and flossing, dental sealants have been shown to significantly reduce the risk of cavities in kids – yet the clear protective coatings, which work by filling the deep grooves where bacteria can accumulate – remain largely underutilized.
Statewide it is estimated that only 54 percent of third-grade children have had a dental sealant applied to their teeth, a number which is higher in Pierce County at 84 percent. This is great news for the kids and parents of Pierce County, but there is still room for improvement.
The thin, slippery coating applied to the chewing surfaces of back teeth (molars) makes it difficult for plaque to adhere, which prevents decay from sticking to the pits and grooves of molars. By blocking germs and food, sealants provide protection against tooth decay by nearly 80 percent in molars for two years, and they continue to protect against 50 percent of cavities for up to four years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Children without dental sealants are three times more likely to develop cavities – they are one of the most effective ways to reduce cavities among children five to 15 years old.
It is important for parents to understand that dental sealants are safe, require no drilling, and are less expensive and easier to apply than fillings. Sealants last five to 10 years and are applied in a simple three-step process performed by the dentist or a dental hygienist:
- Teeth are cleaned with a special toothpaste
- A cleansing liquid is applied gently with a small piece of cotton, and rinsed off
- The sealant is “painted” onto the tooth, requiring about a minute to form a protective shield
Dental sealants are completely covered by most employer-sponsored dental plans, with little or no out-of-pocket expense to parents; for those with individual and family plans, most insurers like Delta Dental offer a free online estimator which calculates any out of-pocket cost based on the child’s specific benefits and the dentist. In addition, many schools offer a school sealant program – check with your school nurse to learn more.
For more information about dental sealants, visit Delta Dental of Washington’s blog.
Jeff Reynolds, DMD is Delta Dental member dentist and serves as the Dental Care & Dental Director for Community Health Care (www.commhealth.org).