It’s a common misconception that dental sealants and fluoride treatments are only for kids. In actuality, adults can benefit from these two treatments just as much as children can. Dental caries, also sometimes referred to as tooth decay, is the result of bacteria in the mouth. When bacteria collect around the teeth and gums, it may produce acid and eventually form a clear, sticky film on the teeth known as plaque. Without proper oral hygiene and regular visits to your dentist, your teeth may become susceptible to dental caries. Sealants and fluoride treatments are intended to help prevent tooth decay from occurring.
What You Need to Know about Dental Sealants
Dental sealants are comprised of plastic coatings that are typically placed on chewing surfaces of the molars and premolars, or back teeth. The purpose of sealants is to protect the teeth from decay. The back permanent teeth are particularly vulnerable to decay due to their grooves or fissures, which are difficult to clean with a regular toothbrush. When plaque accumulates in these fissures, the resulting acid may attack the enamel of the teeth and lead to the formation of cavities. When sealants are properly placed on the teeth, they provide a smooth surface over the grooved areas.
Where Dental Sealants are Placed
Most people have sealants placed on their first permanent molar tooth once it has erupted above the gum. Even if an individual does not have dental sealants when they are a child, there are still many benefits to having dental sealants placed as an adult. It is never too late to begin protecting one’s teeth from decay. For example, adults who may be at risk for dental caries are often ideal candidates for dental sealants.
In some cases, sealants may also be placed on other teeth besides the molars and premolars. This might occur when other permanent teeth have pits or grooves in order to protect the surfaces of those teeth. Adults may naturally be concerned about the appearance of dental sealants and whether or not they will be noticeable. Sealants can be clear, but they can also have a slight tint or even be white depending upon the type of sealant that is used.
How It’s Done
Before placing a sealant, the dentist or dental hygienist will first clean the surface of the tooth using a paste and brush. Next, the tooth will be washed and dried. The hygienist or dentist will then place an acidic solution on the grooved area of the tooth. That solution will remain in place for a few seconds before the tooth is rinsed. The purpose of this is to create a microscopic area with a rougher surface than the adjacent teeth, which allow the dentist to see the grooved area using a microscope. After drying the tooth again, the dentist will then place a liquid sealant on the surface of the tooth. Next, the sealant will be hardened using a special light. In some cases, two-part sealants may be used that can harden on their own without the use of a light. After the sealant is hardened, it will form a hard plastic coating and the tooth can be used once again for regular chewing.
Dental sealants have been around since about the 1970s and have been shown to be quite effective in preventing tooth decay. Most sealants are able to last several years.
What You Need to Know about Fluoride
Many people often wonder whether they still need to use fluoride or have fluoride treatments if they also have dental sealants. The answer is yes. Fluoride treatments can help to prevent tooth decay while also protecting all of the surfaces of the teeth. For proper oral health, it is important to have both dental sealants as well as fluoride treatments.
At one time, dental health experts believed that fluoride was only useful for strengthening developing teeth. This is why fluoride treatments were primarily reserved for children. Today, ongoing research has shown that fluoride can be useful for helping to fight tooth decay in all ages.
For many adults, brushing with a fluoride toothpaste may be enough for optimal oral health. Also, many municipal water supplies contain fluoride to help prevent tooth decay. If you are not sure whether your city water supply contains fluoride, you can contact your local water district. Property owners with private wells can also have their water analyzed to determine whether it contains fluoride. Many people; however, may benefit from fluoride treatments. For instance, individuals who primarily drink bottled water and those who have certain health conditions may be able to benefit from fluoride treatments.
If you take medications or you have a medical condition that results in dry mouth, you may need to consider fluoride treatments. Without the presence of saliva to neutralize oral acids and wash away food debris, you may be more susceptible to developing tooth decay. If your gums have pulled away from your teeth, you may also be more vulnerable to tooth decay because there is more room for bacteria to spread. Individuals who wear braces or other types of orthodontic appliances may also be at risk; as such devices can trap bacteria, which can result in tooth decay. Persons who have had radiation therapy to the head or neck could also be at greater risk for cavities. This is because radiation therapy can cause damage to the salivary glands.
While brushing twice daily and flossing between the teeth can help to remove plaque and is important for good oral health, it may not be enough for some people. For this reason, many adults can benefit from regular fluoride treatments.
Fluoride Prevents Tooth Decay
Fluoride is a type of mineral that is known for preventing tooth decay. Additionally, fluoride is also known to be able to repair teeth while they are still in the early stages of dental caries. Generally, fluoride is applied directly to teeth using a topical solution.
A professional fluoride treatment in your dentist office will only take a few minutes. Your dentist may use fluoride in a gel, solution, varnish, or foam. Generally, fluoride treatments are applied to the teeth using a brush or cotton swab. Treatments can also be placed in a tray to be placed in the mouth for several minutes, or may be used as an oral rinse.
Following a fluoride treatment, your dentist will likely request that you not eat, rinse, or drink for at least minutes. This is to allow time for your teeth to absorb the treatment as well as repair any areas of the teeth that may be in the early stages of dental caries.
Depending on the state of your oral health, your dentist may recommend fluoride treatments every three months, every six month, or once a year. Additionally, your dentist may also recommend other measures designed to prevent dental decay if he or she believes you are at risk for developing dental caries. Such measures may include the use of a prescription fluoride product or antibacterial mouth rinse.