What Are Dental Sealants and How Much Do They Cost?

by Tracey Rosenblath
The lower half of a human face is shown in closeup with a large toothy smile, teeth, tooth, smile, mouth, face, chin, lips

Cavities are painful, but fortunately, there’s a way to prevent them: dental sealants.

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Dental sealants cover the teeth and protect them from acids and bacteria that cause cavities. In fact, dental sealants for teeth can protect against 80% of cavities for the first two years after being applied and against 50% of cavities for up to the next four years.

What Are Dental Sealants and Who Are They For?

Dental sealants are a thin, resin-based plastic coating that’s applied to the chewing surfaces of the back molars and premolars and acts as a barrier against food and bacteria. The back molars have grooves and pits that can harbor bacteria and trap food. Dental sealants protect teeth from cavities by bonding to (filling in) the grooves and nooks and sealing out food and harmful bacteria, making them easier to clean.

Teeth sealants are primarily recommended for children and teenagers, but adults can also get them, provided they don’t have any cavities or fillings in their molars. Although they’re usually applied to permanent back molars, they’re sometimes applied to baby teeth, if those teeth have deep grooves and depressions that could potentially trap food and lead to decay.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children get dental sealants as soon as their permanent back molars come in, which is typically around six years of age for the first molars and 12 years of age for the second molars.

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How Dental Sealants Cost — With and Without Dental Insurance

The exact costs for dental sealants are largely dependent on your dentist. Dentists set their own fees for teeth sealants, so some may charge more than others. Where you live may also be a factor in dental sealant costs. For example, you might pay more if you live in a large metropolitan area than you would in a small rural community.

On average, dental sealants cost between $35 and $60 (CAD 50 and CAD 80) per tooth without insurance. If your child has one set of permanent molars, you can expect to pay $70 to $120 (CAD 95 to CAD 160), and if they have both sets of molars, dental sealants for teeth could set you back $140 to $240 (CAD 190 to CAD 320).

Although this may seem expensive, dental sealants are a lot cheaper than fillings, which cost about $75 to $300 (CAD 100 to CAD 400) per tooth. Children without dental sealants are three times more likely to get cavities, and those costs can add up over time. In this case, it’s less expensive to use dental sealants to prevent cavities than it is to treat the cavities themselves.

However, you may incur more costs because teeth need to be cleaned before they can be sealed. Although some dentists include the cost of tooth cleaning in dental sealant procedure costs, others don’t. If your dentist doesn’t, you can expect to pay an additional $50 to $135 (CAD 70 to CAD 180). You may also pay more if the back molars are decayed, as the decay will need to be treated before the teeth can be sealed.

If you have dental insurance, you may not have to pay anything out of pocket for dental sealants. Because dental sealant placement is considered a preventative procedure, many insurance plans cover the entire cost.

Free Dental Sealants for Children

Your children may be able to get free dental sealants if your child meets one of the following conditions:

  • Enrolled in Medicaid
  • Enrolled in the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

Some states have special programs that provide free or low-cost dental sealant procedures for children. For example, if you live in Arizona, your child may be able to get free dental sealants through the Arizona Department of Health Services. Check to see if your state offers any special programs.

Children can also get free dental sealants through the school-based Sealant Programs offered by the CDC. This program targets children aged 6 to 11 in low-income families who might otherwise be unable to get preventative dental care and currently operates in 20 states and one territory.

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Free Tooth Sealants for Adults

Depending on where you live, you may be able to get free dental sealants. Medicaid covers tooth sealant procedures for adults in 28 states. If you’re enrolled in Medicaid, it’s worth checking to see if preventative procedures, such as dental sealants, are covered in your state.

Does Insurance Cover Dental Sealants?

Whether insurance covers dental sealants depends on your plan and other factors. Some insurance companies will cover a dental sealant procedure, while others won’t. Plans that cover sealants may have certain restrictions, such as:

  • Only certain teeth are covered for sealants.
  • Sealants are only covered if a dental exam has taken place.
  • Only patients under the age of 18 are covered.

Most policies don’t cover sealants for adults, but many cover them for children and teenagers. Look your policy over or call your insurance provider to see if your insurance covers sealants and to determine whether there are any restrictions.

All CAD conversions are based on the exchange rate on the date of publication.

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