- How much do they cost? / Are they covered by insurance? / Cost effectiveness.
Here's an estimate of what you might pay to have a sealant placed on your, or your child's, tooth.
$37.00 - $62.00
Small city or town. - Metropolitan area.
Note: The fee range shown is per tooth.
How did we come up with this estimate?
What's included in the price?
a) Sealing the tooth.
b) Is maintenance included? / Replacements.
It's important for dental sealants to be evaluated regularly and repaired as needed.
For your own information, you should ask your dentist what their policy is in regard to fees charged for repairing or replacing lost or deficient sealants. For example, they may not charge for repairs made to one within a certain time period after its original placement date.
Replacement might also be cost-free if required within a certain initial time frame. (Also, see "frequency" section below.)
Are sealants covered by dental insurance?
Many dental plans/insurance policies do cover tooth sealants.
It's easy to understand why. Since dental sealants are an effective means by which to reduce tooth decay, and thus fillings, these companies realize that if they do provide coverage it will save them money in the long run.
Possible policy limitations.
If you are covered by a plan that does provide coverage, there may be conditions and limitations involved.
- The policy may only provide coverage for certain teeth. It's common for 1st and 2nd permanent molars to be covered. It's much less likely for a policy to provide benefits for primary (baby) teeth or permanent bicuspids (premolars).
- Coverage for individual teeth may be limited to a specific age range. Age 16 years is a common cutoff point.
- There may be limitations as to the frequency with which a tooth may be sealed.
For example, a plan may only provide benefits for sealing a tooth once. Or, the limitation may be a time interval such as once every 3 or 5 years. This type of stipulation may present a problem if a sealant requires repair.
- The policy's deductible may or may not be involved. Some plans will provide full benefits for this procedure even before the policy's deductible has been met. Others won't be as generous.
Some organizations/agencies operate tooth-sealant programs that your child may be eligible for. You'll simply have to check around and see what's available.
Where to get information.
Here are some suggestions as to where you might find information about the availability of such programs.
- Your state's Medicade office. (Medicade programs frequently cover this procedure.)
- Your child's school.
- Your child's pediatrician.
- Your county's health department.
- Your state's Dental Board.
- Your state's dental association.
Additional things to know.
a) An examination may be required.
If you don't have an established relationship with a dental office, it's unlikely that you'll find one that will offer to place tooth sealants without performing an examination for the patient first.
During this exam, the dentist can confirm that the teeth in question are proper candidates for this procedure. The exam may possibly need to include a set of bite-wing x-rays (the type of x-rays dentists use to check for tooth decay) but not always. (School-based programs routinely rely on just a clinical examination of the teeth being treated.)
b) Comparing prices.
Unlike with other dental procedures, comparing fees among different offices for this one should be straightforward enough.
- As explained at the top of this page, dental sealant fees are typically charged on a flat per-tooth basis.
- When inquiring, there is no comparable procedure that this one might be confused with.
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How cost-effective is dental sealant placement?
This is a very difficult question to answer and one that we don't entirely have an answer for, at least in precise terms. But we can say:
- On the surface, a comparison of the cost of a sealant vs. a filling (about $50 vs. $120 or so plus) is easy enough to make. However there is no guarantee that the tooth in question absolutely would have developed a cavity.
- It's easier to demonstrate a cost benefit for teeth where incipient (early, minor) decay has already begun (placing a sealant is cheaper). But why would you want to allow a tooth to become compromised like this when placing a sealant beforehand could have prevented it?
- One shouldn't overlook the fact that no dental restoration lasts forever. That means a filling needed because the tooth was not sealed will need to be replaced repeatedly over the child's lifetime.
- You should take note of the fact that many dental insurance companies do provide coverage for this procedure. It's unlikely that they would do so unless they felt that it will save them money in the long run.
And finally, in terms of cost-effectiveness this is a very interesting fact. Having sealants placed on a child's teeth tends to lower their decay rate on other tooth surfaces too, on the order of 5 fold. (Haisch 2008) [page references] (Because the bacteria that cause cavities have fewer places to live.).
So the cost of placing a sealant doesn't just help to prevent the need for a filling where it is placed but for other tooth locations too. That's a big benefit and savings, both now and over the remainder of the child's life.
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