Are Sealants Good for Adult Teeth?

 I receive many questions about sealants about what they are for and whether or not they can benefit adults(not only children). Before I discuss this, I think it’s important to understand what they are and when/where they are used.

A sealant is a noninvasive/drill-free filling that is placed on the biting surfaces of teeth(typically back teeth) to prevent decay. I emphasize “PREVENT” decay not “TREAT” decay. It is made a material similar to composite(aka tooth colored white fillings) in that the material is typically white in color and is bonded to tooth.  It does not require drilling as it more less a “covering” that is placed on the top(biting surface of the tooth.

The purpose of the sealant is to “Seal” off the grooves and channels are that are often times on the biting edges of the tooth.  I like to call it “Dorito-proofing”. If you have ever eaten a chip or Dorito and find yourself picking at half of the chip out of your tooth, it is because the grooves and channels trap the food and make it very difficult to remove. Those areas that trap food are much more prone to decay.  A sealant is placed over the grooves to minimize food impaction and furthermore decreasing the chance of decay.  They are often placed in children’s permanent molars to help with hygiene and decrease the chances of decay(i.e. needing a filling). A sealant is cheaper and quicker and more comfortable as anesthetic and drilling is not necessary.

Can they be used on adults? Absolutely.  I personally have them on all my back teeth as I like the additional protection from decay. I am not crazy about being numb and drilled on if I can have a noninvasive filling placed instead. There are limitations about sealants such as:

  1. Insurance does NOT typically cover them on adults.
  2. They are only typically placed on teeth that have never had fillings.
  3. The cannot protect the surfaces in between teeth(i.e. the areas you floss).

Talk to your dentist about how sealants can benefit you!

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