Dental sealants are often used on the teeth of children and teenagers. Consisting of a very thin layer of plastic, a sealant is a great way to protect teeth and reduce the risk of tooth decay. But sealants aren’t just for kids! In fact, older adults can benefit from dental sealants as well.
The unfortunate fact is that we’re never immune from cavities, no matter how old we are. And while it’s true that young children and teenagers are typically more prone to developing tooth decay, older people can develop cavities just as easily as their kids and grandkids. This is especially true for teeth located at the back of the mouth. Because we chew with our molars, and because these teeth have tiny grooves in the surface that can trap food particles and make them harder to clean, cavities are more likely to form on these teeth. A sealant helps to smooth out the surface of the back teeth, making it harder for food particles to collect and, thus, more difficult for cavities to form.
There’s even more good news about sealants – they’re remarkably easy and quick to apply. In fact, the entire process can usually be completed in a single trip to the dentist office and is completely painless. Here’s what’s involved in having a sealant applied to your teeth:
- Your dentist will begin by thoroughly cleaning and drying the surface of your teeth.
- Next, your dentist will apply a gel to your teeth, which will slightly roughen the surface. This will help the sealant to adhere better to the tooth.
- After the gel is applied, the tooth surface will be once again rinsed and dried.
- Finally, the dental sealant is applied to the tooth. Your dentist may choose to use a specially designed light to help harden the sealant more quickly.
While there’s no doubt that sealants help to guard against tooth decay, it’s important to remember that a sealant does not replace the other steps involved in maintaining healthy teeth and gums. You’ll still need to brush your teeth twice a day and floss at least once a day. And you’ll need to visit your dentist twice a year (or more) for professional cleanings and dental exams. Sealant material is durable, but it doesn’t last forever. Typically, sealants need to be replaced every 10 years or so.
For more information about dental sealants, and to help determine whether or not you could benefit from them, talk to your dentist.