Dental sealants are a simple but effective way of protecting young teeth and adult teeth that are prone to cavities. Despite only taking a few minutes to place, the average dental sealant can remain strong for 5 years or even longer, according to research. However, if after having them placed, a patient does not practice good oral hygiene, or eats foods that may harm the sealants, this lifespan may be greatly reduced.
Just because the dental sealants are in place, this does not mean that a patient then has free reign to eat whatever they want. That is not how dental sealants work. They are not a shield against certain foods. They merely prevent food debris and bacteria from becoming trapped in the naturally occurring grooves of the molars, lessening the risk of tooth decay in those areas.
If you or your child has recently had dental sealants placed, practice the following habits to ensure that they provide years of protection.
Cut Down on Hard and Sticky Foods
Unlike dental fillings, which can last 10 years or longer, dental sealants don't hold up as well when in contact with sticky or hard foods. Obviously then, foods such as toffee, boiled sweets, and even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches should be eaten in moderation--not avoided completely--just not all the time!
Remember, dental sealants are of a similar colour to enamel. Therefore, you might not immediately notice when part of a sealant is damaged or has broken off. What might then happen without your knowledge, is that bacteria enters the small channel and thrives underneath the dental sealant. If this happens, the dental sealant will need to be replaced in future with a filling in order to fill in the decayed area.
Eat Desserts and Sweets with Meals
Desserts and sweets don't necessarily have to be completely avoided. However, because saliva is your mouth's first defence against tooth decay, caused by bacteria or acidic food and drink, and saliva is more abundant during meals, eat your desserts at dinner time. When you chew, you produce more saliva, so naturally, the time at which you chew the most--dinner time--is the best time to enjoy sweets.
Lastly, remember that bacteria multiply overnight. If you don't brush and floss before bed then, all that food debris and bacteria left in your mouth will create an acid bath. Even teeth with sealants may still get cavities in the areas that don't have sealants. Sealants are an added line of defence, not the only line of defence. As long as you remember that, your sealants might last years.