Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sealants and Fluoride: Benefit to Adult Patients

Dental decay can develop at any time, regardless of a person's age. A change in diet, change in lifestyle, change in oral self-care habits, the use of prescription medications, or a change in systemic health due to the normal aging process can all affect the caries (decay) susceptibility. Few people remain completely free of decay. Proper oral self-care on your part and properly spaced dental hygiene prevention appointments will go a long way to reduce the opportunity to have new decay to begin.

As you age, it is possible that some of your gum tissue will recede, exposing the root surfaces of your teeth. This gum recession can occur from improper brushing (brushing too hard with a hard toothbrush) or as a result of past periodontal problems. The more a tooth and root are exposed, the greater is the surface area you will have to keep clean. Sometimes the teeth with exposed roots are very hard to keep clean. These roots may be sensitive to temperature changes and are often times uncomfortable to brush. Decreased salivary flow (dry mouth) helps to create a breeding ground for bacteria to accumulate on the enamel and especially on the root surface. And root decay usually progresses quite quickly!

Goal of Prevention
Your goal should be to keep the dentist from drilling your teeth. Any reasonable preventive measure that is available should be seriously considered. When the dentist drills, you lose. When the dentist does not drill, you win.
                                                         Dental Sealants
Please see our blog post on sealants. Although sealants are primarily designed for children, adults who have a history of active decay should consider having sealants placed on the posterior (back) teeth where indicated. We will tell you where it is possible to place the sealants. Even if you have not had a cavity for a long time, consider the application of a sealant as an inexpensive insurance policy for your teeth. Perhaps you would never get decay on the unsealed surfaces. But, just as you insure your home against destruction by fire, a sealant insures the tooth surface from decay. Preventive measures may allow you to avoid having your teeth drilled. You win! 

Topical Fluoride
For a similar reason, we advise the use of topical fluoride treatments for adults. The effectiveness of systemic and topical fluoride in preventing decay is well documented. When a cavity first starts, an application of fluoride might (depending on when it is used) reduce or eliminate the need for drilling.
Fluoride Varnish

An alternative to the fluoride treatment we can provide in our office is a daily rinse. If you can rinse with an over-the-counter mouth rinse containing fluoride every night as directed on the rinse label, you do not need the office topical fluoride treatment. If you cannot rinse daily as instructed, you will need the benefit from the strong office-applied topical fluoride treatment. Your oral health will benefit most from small increments of fluoride that are applied daily rather than one larger concentration every 6 months. However, only you know whether you will be faithful in your rinsing routine. When in doubt, let us do it here.

We stress prevention of dental disease above all else. Sealants and topical fluoride treatments are two of the more important preventive dental measures that we believe will significantly enhance your oral health.


  1. I remember getting fluoride treatments as a kid but I never knew what it did for my teeth. It is good to know that it helps prevent decay! The next time I go to the dentist I will have to see if I can get one!

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