Dental fillings and sealants both protect teeth from tooth decay, but they do it very differently. Here’s an introduction to both treatments. Sealants and fillings are different, but the purpose of this article isn’t to help you choose between them. It’s to help you understand the value of each (and, for that matter, both!).
What are sealants and fillings?
Dental fillings replace tooth material in a cavity lost to tooth decay or removed by a dentist to eliminate tooth decay. Dental sealants are a liquid “shield” that is painted onto the surface of teeth to prevent the development of tooth decay and cavities by preventing sugar, food particles, acids, and bacteria from coming into contact with and destroying enamel and tooth tissue.
Proactive versus reactive
Dentists use dental sealants in South Edmonton as a preventative measure to protect you from the formation of cavities. Sealants are applied to healthy teeth, especially molars that have lots of grooves and crevices that tend to accumulate food particles, bacteria, acid, and plaque. A coat of sealant over those teeth keeps the acids produced by bacteria and plaque from even touching your teeth.
Fillings, on the other hand, are a treatment used by your dentist in South Edmonton to respond to a cavity produced by tooth decay. The acids produced by tooth decay dissolve the minerals in your teeth, leaving voids behind that weaken the tooth and can expose the tooth’s nerve. To treat a cavity, a dentist near you will remove decayed tooth enamel, clear any bacteria from the area and fill the cavity to prevent penetration by further bacteria and the spread of tooth infection.
What materials are used?
Dental sealants are made from a liquid plastic material that is painted onto clean and dry tooth surfaces where the liquid will dry and harden into a protective, clear, and strong shield.
Fillings, on the other hand, are made from a variety of materials. Traditionally, “silver” fillings have been made from an amalgam of substances including silver, copper, tin, and mercury. Alternatives to silver fillings include porcelain, gold, and composite resin fillings. Composite resin fillings offer the distinct advantage of being “tooth-coloured” — sometimes referred to as white — so they can be used in highly visible areas of your mouth without standing out and detracting from your appearance.
How long will sealants and fillings last?
A well-made filling placed in a properly prepared tooth is designed to be a permanent treatment for a cavity, though they can erode and become damaged over time. Fillings typically need to be replaced every 10 to 15 years, and they should be replaced before they fail or fall out to ensure that your tooth is protected at all times. At your regular dental checkups, your dentist in South Edmonton will inspect each filling and will recommend replacement when they approach the end of their lifespan. (Some people prefer to replace older “silver” fillings with tooth-coloured composite fillings because they’re more aesthetically pleasing and contain no mercury, a substance associated with some health risks.)
Dental sealants are not, unlike fillings, intended to be a permanent solution for anything. Rather, it is anticipated from the outset that sealants will gradually wear away due to the constant use of the sealed teeth and the inevitable wear and tear that the biting surfaces are subjected to. Having said that, sealants will protect teeth for years, especially because, just as is the case with fillings, dentists will inspect those sealants at regular checkups to ensure the shield is intact (and will touch it up as required).
Fillings and dental sealants near you are two resources your dentist can bring to bear to prevent, protect you from, and respond to tooth decay. Ask your dentist to apply those resources for the benefit of your own health.