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I Gotta Sealant (tonight's gonna be a good night)

Everybody knows somebody who is a little too concerned with keeping their new purchases looking new…forever. This type of behavior is probably most easily recognized in leaving the plastic shipping covers on your couches for years after delivery. The idea is that by maintaining the plastic cover, you are opening up the possibility that you may never have to purchase another couch again. This is followed closely by the fantasy that you could recoup a lot of money on resale when you try selling a “like-new” couch that’s only 30 years old.

The idea of actually enjoying this couch is completely subordinate to these economic considerations. There really is no better feeling than peeling yourself off of a plastic couch in the middle of August. I sometimes wonder if people who know they will not be removing the covers do their shopping in the warehouse rather than the showroom. This way they can test which couch feels best under polyethylene. Maybe the appeal isn't that it makes the couches stain resistant but people repellant. Maybe your parents are trying to tell you to hit the road by making their own home less livable.

Some instances of this behavior are less socially isolating than others. My own dad kept the manufacturer’s plastic coating on his Iphone for years. Other than the razzing he had to endure from his sons, his phone appeared in nearly mint condition when it was finally retired after 5 years of use. You gotta give it to him; the man knows how to maintain personal electronics.

In still other instances, this behavior is not only beneficial, but highly recommended. Dental sealants, also made of plastic and are a great way to preserve the beautiful enamel on permanent teeth which start making an appearance in the mouth at age six. Sealants fit perfectly into the depressions and grooves of teeth, protecting them from the decay-causing bacteria.

My kid brushes and flosses, isn’t that enough?

Brushing and flossing are very effective in removing most food and plaque particles, but the very tight grooves and pits on the chewing surface of teeth can be inaccessible to even toothbrush bristles. The tooth develops from finger-like projections that come together to form the tooth. Although in most cases, these projections coalesce into solid grooves and depressions, in some instances, deep pits and fissures form making traditional oral hygiene care insufficient. Sealant material seeps into these areas and protects them from bacteria-filled plaque. These grooves are most prevalent on molars (back set of teeth) making them the most likely candidates for sealing.

When should my child have sealants placed and how long should they last?

In normal eruption, first molars come in around six and second molars come in around 12. The sooner sealants are placed on teeth, the lower the probability of decay happening in these deep pits and grooves. In terms of longevity, sealants provide a significant decrease in the risk of decay while they remain intact. It is incumbent upon the provider placing the sealants to keep teeth free from moisture contamination during the placement. For most children, this will require a device to be placed into the patient’s mouth to keep teeth dry. These devices vary in shape but are safe and reasonably comfortable. When sealants are placed properly, they are very durable to normal chewing and usually last 5-10 years. It is important that sealants are routinely monitored by your dentist to assure that each one remains intact.

Will my insurance pay for sealants?

This may come as a surprise to many of you, but your insurance company does not exist to provide you benefits. The reality is that they must remain profitable to survive meaning they must collect more money than they dish out in benefits. This makes them neither good nor bad, but it does mean that they only cover those services that will allow them to continue to remain profitable. One of the largest endorsements of sealants is the fact that most insurance companies do cover sealants for children and teenagers. They know they will save money over time if teeth are sealed and protected. Everybody's happy!!

Well sealants sound great, can I get them too so my teeth can match my couches?

Sealants can protect adult teeth too, but these are normally not covered by insurance. Childhood and adolescence are cavity prone years while adulthood tends to be less so, making sealants unncessary for most adult patients. However, each person is different so feel free to talk about your particular case with your dentist. I continue to stand by my distaste for plastic couch covers though.

Sealants are a great way to protect your kid’s teeth so talk to your dentist about them at your next appointment!

Some other possible titles for this article were Blue Swedes’ “I’m hooked on a sealant,” Boston’s “More than a sealant,” and my favorite:

That's enough Marv!

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