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Dental Sealants for Adults: Are They Worth the Risks and Costs?

2022-10-09

When we think about dental care, we often focus on brushing, flossing, and regular check-ups. However, there's another preventive measure that is gaining popularity among adults - dental sealants. Originally designed for children, dental sealants are thin protective coatings applied to the chewing surfaces of molars and premolars to prevent cavities.  

In recent years, more adults are opting for sealants as part of their dental care routine. In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the benefits, drawbacks, cost-effectiveness, and overall worth of dental sealants for adults to help you decide whether they are right for you. 

Dental Sealants: An Overview 

Dental sealants are thin protective coatings applied to the chewing surfaces of molars and premolars to prevent cavities. They are typically made of plastic resin and are designed to seal off the pits and fissures of teeth, which are prone to trapping food particles and bacteria, leading to decay. Sealants create a smooth surface that is easier to clean with regular brushing, thus reducing the risk of cavities. 

Procedure for Getting Dental Sealants 

  1. Cleaning and Preparation: The dental professional starts by cleaning the teeth thoroughly to remove any plaque or debris. The tooth surface is then dried and isolated for the sealant application.
  2. Acid Etching (Optional for Some Sealants): In some cases, an acidic gel is applied to the tooth surface briefly to slightly roughen the enamel. This helps the sealant bond better to the tooth.
  3. Sealant Application: The sealant material, usually a liquid resin, is applied to the tooth's chewing surface. Once hardened, it flows into the pits and fissures and forms a thin layer.
  4. Curing or Hardening: A special curing light may be used to harden the sealant quickly. Once hardened, the sealant forms a protective barrier on the tooth surface.
  5. Evaluation and Follow-up: The dentist or dental hygienist checks the sealant's placement and ensures proper coverage. Regular dental check-ups are recommended to monitor the sealants' condition and effectiveness.  

Dental Sealants for Children vs Adults: Why the Approach Differs 

  •  Application Age:

Children: We apply sealants to their new permanent molars and premolars (usually between ages 6 and 14) when they are most at risk of decay.  

Adults: If they're prone to cavities or have deep grooves on molars, sealants are beneficial no matter their age. It's all about ongoing protection.

  • Tooth Surface 

Children: We focus on sealing the chewing surfaces with deep grooves and pits because that's where food and decay often start. 

Adults: Sealants also target these areas, especially where plaque builds up, safeguarding against decay.  

  • Procedure Similarities

Both groups go through the same steps: cleaning, prep, applying sealant, curing it, and checking to ensure it's all good.

  • Longevity and Maintenance

Sealants last a good while for kids and adults, but adults might need more frequent check-ups to ensure they're holding up well over time. 

  • Cost Considerations

Costs vary, but for adults, the need for sealants may be tied to specific dental conditions, which can affect costs and long-term savings. 

Knowing why we approach sealants differently for kids and adults helps us make smarter choices for our dental health. Talk to your dentist to figure out what's best for you or your child's unique needs, ensuring a healthy smile and cavity-free for years to come. 

Benefits of Dental Sealants for Adults 

1. Cavity Prevention 

The primary benefit of dental sealants is their ability to prevent cavities. By sealing off the grooves and pits of teeth, sealants create a smooth surface that is easier to clean with regular brushing and flossing, reducing the risk of decay. 

2. Long-lasting Protection 

With proper care, sealants can last for several years. They provide continuous protection against decay, especially in areas that are difficult to reach with a toothbrush. 

3. Non-invasive Procedure 

Unlike fillings or other dental treatments for cavities, sealant application is non-invasive and typically pain-free. There's no need for drilling or anesthesia in most cases. 

4. Cost-Effective Prevention 

Sealants are a cost-effective preventive measure considering the potential costs of treating cavities and other dental issues. They can help avoid more extensive and expensive dental procedures in the future. 

5. Suitable for Adults 

While sealants are commonly associated with children, adults can also benefit significantly, especially if they are prone to cavities or have deep grooves on their molars. 

Drawbacks and Considerations 

While dental sealants offer numerous benefits, it's essential to consider some potential drawbacks and factors before deciding to get them: 

1. Limited Protection 

Sealants primarily protect teeth' chewing surfaces. They do not cover the entire tooth surface or protect against decay between teeth or along the gumline. Good oral hygiene practices remain crucial. 

2. Wear and Tear 

Over time, sealants can wear down from chewing and normal dental wear and tear. Regular dental check-ups can help monitor their condition and determine if reapplication is necessary. 

3. Cost Considerations 

Although sealants are cost-effective in the long run, initial costs may vary depending on the dental provider, location, and insurance coverage. Some insurance plans may cover sealants for adults, so it's advisable to check with your provider. 

Cost-Effectiveness and Worth for Adults 

The cost-effectiveness of dental sealants for adults depends on various factors, including individual oral health, risk of cavities, and insurance coverage. Here are some points to consider: 

1. Risk of Cavities 

Adults with a history of cavities or deep grooves on their teeth may benefit significantly from sealants. Preventing even one cavity can justify the cost of sealant application. 

2. Insurance Coverage 

Check with your dental insurance provider to see if adult sealants are covered. Many plans include sealants as a preventive measure, reducing out-of-pocket costs. 

3. Long-Term Savings 

Considering the costs of treating cavities, root canals, or other dental issues, investing in sealants as a preventive measure can save money in the long term. 

4. Consultation with Dentist 

Discuss your oral health history, concerns, and preventive options with your dentist. They can provide personalized recommendations based on your specific needs and budget. 

Removal of Dental Sealants: When and Why  

Dental sealants don't always need to be removed, but sometimes it's a good idea. Here's why we might consider removing them: 

  • Wear and Tear: Sealants can wear down over time from chewing and regular dental activities. If they get too thin or start wearing out, removing them helps protect teeth from cavities.
  • Damage or Chipping: If a sealant gets damaged or chips off, it can't do its job properly. Taking it off and putting on a new one helps keep your tooth safe. 
  • Checking Up: When you go for regular dental check-ups, your dentist checks how well your sealants are doing. If they're not working as they should or your dentist is concerned about your tooth's health under the sealant, taking it off lets your dentist get a better look and decide what's best for your tooth. 

Remember, sealants usually last long if you care for them. Your dentist will watch them during your visits and let you know if they need any attention or if it's time to replace them. Talking to your dentist helps you make the right choices for a healthy smile! 

Removing Dental Sealants: Procedure and Considerations 

Dental sealants are thin coatings applied to molars and premolars to prevent cavities. They may need removal due to wear, damage, or deterioration. 

Procedure: 

Evaluation: Dentist assesses sealant condition. 

Preparation: Tooth cleaning without anesthesia. 

Sealant Removal: Gentle scraping with specialized tools. 

Cleaning: Remove residual material and polish it. 

Assessment: The dentist checks the tooth condition for reapplication or alternative treatments. 

Considerations: 

Professional Removal: Done by a dentist or dental hygienist. 

Patient Comfort: Generally painless but may cause slight discomfort. 

Follow-up Care: Maintain good oral hygiene and regular dental visits. 

Replacement Options: Sealant replacement or alternative preventive treatments may be recommended. 

Regular dental care and communication with your dentist are key to maintaining optimal oral health after sealant removal. 

Conclusion: Making an Informed Decision 

Dental sealants offer valuable protection against cavities for both children and adults. While they are not a complete solution for dental care, they are a cost-effective preventive measure that complements regular brushing, flossing, and dental check-ups. 

Sealants can benefit adults who are prone to cavities or have deep grooves on their teeth. When deciding whether to get sealants, consider factors such as the risk of cavities, insurance coverage, and long-term savings.  

Ultimately, consulting with your dentist is key to making an informed decision about dental sealants. They can assess your oral health needs, discuss the benefits and limitations of sealants, and guide you toward the best preventive measures for a healthy smile. Investing in preventive care today can lead to lasting dental health and savings tomorrow. 

Contact your dentist in Walnut Creek, Dr. Darvishzadeh, DDS at Walnut Creek Dental, to learn more about Adult dental sealants.

Resource:

The Dental Sealant Procedure

*This media/content or any other on this website does not prescribe, recommend, or prevent any treatment or procedure. Therefore, we highly recommend that you get the advice of a qualified dentist or other medical practitioners regarding your specific dental condition.


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