Sealants vs. Fillings: What’s the Difference?

Outside of the routine cleanings, dentists provide a wide range of treatments and procedures to ensure their patients’ teeth are healthy. Two of the most common treatments in children are dental sealants and dental fillings. When it comes to your children’s teeth, should you choose a filling or a sealant? How do you know which one is going to work best for them? Let’s explore the similarities and differences between sealants and fillings.

Dental Sealants

Sealants are a preventive treatment applied to premolars and molars with deep crevices to reduce the risk of tooth decay. Bacteria like these deep grooves because they can hide in them and stay safe from toothbrushing. The longer the bacteria live in these grooves, the more plaque they create, which increases the risk of cavities.

Beyond taking care of your teeth every day, getting a sealant makes the bacteria easier to brush away. With fewer bacteria on your teeth, the fewer plaque acids will build up on the enamel surface of your teeth. So, you can reduce your child’s risk of cavities with a dental sealant.

The sealant material looks like a tooth-colored, plastic coating that, when applied to a tooth, protects it from decay. During the procedure, your dentist will first clean and prepare your tooth before painting on the sealant. The sealant then settles into your tooth’s natural grooves before your dentist uses ultraviolet light to harden and cure it.

During the final step, your dentist will ensure the sealant completely protects your tooth. After the procedure, your tooth surface will be left smooth, easy to clean and protected from decay.

Dental Fillings

The difference between dental fillings and dental sealants provided at Snodgrass-King Dentistry in Cool Springs, Murfreesboro, and Spring Hill, Tennessee.

Fillings are a restorative treatment that repairs the damage of tooth decay. In fact, fillings are the most common treatment for symptoms of tooth decay, such as cavities. This procedure allows dentists to fill in the holes created by tooth decay.

When you go in to receive a dental filling, your hygienist will clean your teeth before the procedure begins. Your mouth will be numbed before your dentist removes the decay with a dental drill. With the decay removed and the tooth prepped, your dentist will prepare the filling material.

Composite Fillings

At Snodgrass-King Dentistry offices, we offer both composite and amalgam fillings. Composite fillings are made with tooth-colored material made from porcelain. So, if you want a more natural-looking smile, composite fillings might be the right option for you.

Amalgam Fillings

On the other hand, amalgam fillings are made with silver material. Amalgam fillings may not look the prettiest, but they do last longer than any other type of filling.

Be sure to talk to your dentist before your procedure to decide the right dental filling for you.

Finishing the Procedure

You should know that on top of removing the decay from your tooth, they will also remove any previous dental restoration. Next, the cavity is cleaned out and the material is prepared. Whether you chose an amalgam or a composite filling, your dentist will shape the material to your tooth and thoroughly fill the cavity.

Finally, like the sealant process, the material is cured and hardened using an ultraviolet light. After the material has hardened, the bite is adjusted and corrected using a handpiece.

How are Dental Sealants and Dental Fillings Similar?

Both sealants and fillings are optional, however, in some cases are necessary. Both treatments fill the grooves of the tooth and provide a protective shield to the enamel. The processes of the treatments are similar, as they both require the use of special tools such as the dental drill and the ultraviolet light.

How are Dental Sealants and Dental Fillings Different?

Although these procedures share similarities, they also have their differences.

The main differences come from the goals of the treatments, their longevity, and the amount of modification to the actual tooth. The average life of a filling can be expected to last as long as ten years. The average life expectancy of a sealant is no longer than a year.

Depending on the patient’s oral hygiene practices, it may not even survive that long. Sealants are typically provided to children to protect their back teeth from developing decay. On the other hand, dentists use fillings to repair tooth decay for patients of any age.

Another difference lies in how these procedures are performed. During a filling, the natural tooth structure is actually modified. Meaning, that the decayed part of the tooth is removed and then filled. In contrast, a dental sealant only fills in the natural grooves of the tooth without changing the structure.

Should I Choose Dental Sealants or Dental Fillings for My Child?

Whether you should choose a filling or sealant is dependent upon the age and specific needs of your child. Fortunately, you will be able to rely on your dentist to make this decision. Your dentist has all of the relevant information and can explain whether a filling or sealant is the best treatment for your kiddo.