Tooth decay is a common problem for children and adults, and is largely preventable through healthy oral hygiene habits including regular brushing and flossing, as well as visiting the dentist for a professional cleaning and examination at least twice per year.
Sealants, plastic coatings applied to the teeth, offer additional protection against tooth decay after a child’s permanent molars have erupted through the gums.
They are effective at preventing food and bacteria from becoming lodged in the deeper grooves of teeth in the back of the mouth, therefore reducing the likelihood that decay will develop.
The process of applying sealants is quick, and children can be assured that it will not be painful. The plastic coating is brushed on, similar to the way fluoride can be applied, and then dries and hardens within a few minutes. Adults can also benefit from the procedure as the risk of dental decay is not decreasing during their lifespan, and it offers the same advantages as those for children. Dental patients should expect that the condition of the coating will be examined at subsequent appointments to ensure that it is still providing optimal protection.
Generally, parents and guardians can expect sealants to last from five to ten years. It is important to recognize that sealants do not replace good oral hygiene habits. Children should be encouraged to brush twice daily, floss, and consume a variety of healthy foods. It is best to avoid frequent snacking between meals as this provides the opportunity for food and bacteria to enter and remain in the pits and fissures of molars, ultimately increasing the risk of decay.