Dental Sealants vs. Fillings for Cavities

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Have you ever been to the dentist and been left scratching your head about what you heard? The chances are that this has happened to you, and one of the concepts that our patients have told us they have found confusing relates to fillings and sealants. So, we wanted to take some time to clear the air and help our patients and readers understand the differences between the two.

What’s the difference between dental sealants and fillings?

Before we get into the difference between dental sealants and fillings, let’s take a moment to talk about the differences between preventive dentistry and restorative dentistry. Quite simply, preventive dentistry is all about the measures that are taken to keep your teeth healthy and strong so that restorative measures aren’t needed. And, of course, restorative dentistry involves replacing or repairing missing or damaged teeth.

Dental Sealants

Sealants are used as a preventive measure where there is a risk of tooth decay in your premolars or molars. Bacteria tend to take up residence in the deep grooves of these back teeth because it is harder to get the toothbrush back there. But the longer the bacteria sits on the teeth without removal, the more plaque is created, and the greater the risk is for cavities. Sealants are applied to premolars and molars, thus sealing the teeth so that bacteria can’t grow. With less bacteria on your teeth, there is less plaque build-up and thus less risk of cavities.

Though dental sealants are not permanent, they are known to last for five or more years. Further, dental sealants can be used for children or adults. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that sealants for kids reduce the risk of tooth decay in molars by as much as 80%. And it is important to know that once a tooth has fillings, it usually cannot be sealed.

Dental Fillings

Dental fillings, on the other hand, are a restorative treatment used to treat tooth decay. Fillings are the most common treatment for tooth decay, and there are three different types of dental fillings.

  1. Composite fillings are made with tooth-colored material crafted from porcelain.
  2. Amalgam fillings are made with silver materials and are more often used in the back of the mouth. They do, however, last longer than composite and ceramic porcelain fillings.
  3. Ceramic porcelain fillings are a bit more expensive than their counterparts, but are highly durable and aesthetically pleasing. Ceramic fillings often outlast composite fillings, thus making them a very cost-effective solution.

At-home care tips for keeping your kids’ teeth healthy and strong.

Though your kids’ dentist is always at the ready to help with both preventive and restorative dentistry, there are things you can do at home to help your child keep their teeth and gums in good health. After all, it is best to preserve your teeth and oral health whenever possible.

  1. Start good oral habits early on. Teach your child how to brush at least twice a day for two minutes at a time with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Show them how to carefully floss between their teeth at least once per day.
  2. Limit the number of sugary foods or beverages that your child consumes. In particular, try to avoid gummy candy and vitamins, suckers (unless sugar-free suckers like zollipops), sticky candies, or fruit roll-ups, which erode dental enamel and lead to cavities. If your kids do eat these foods, make sure they rinse their mouth with a fluoridated mouthwash or brush their teeth afterward so that the sugar washes away.
  3. If your child has a cavity, don’t freak out. Request an appointment with your preferred pediatric dental office. Your child’s dentist will be able to tell you whether or not they have a cavity and can provide treatment options to stop the growth of the cavity and save the tooth.
  4. Schedule a dental appointment for your child at your dentist at least once every six months. With regular check-ups, your kids’ dentist can catch just about any dental issue your child might have. Identifying a problem early on is not only less painful for your child, but it’s less expensive too.

Schedule your child’s next dental visit now

If your child is due for their next dental visit, or they haven’t been to see the dentist yet, now is the time to get that appointment on the calendar. And if you are in the Omaha, NE, area, or near one of our other Greater Nebraska offices, the Pediatric Dental Specialists team would love to see you. We’re experts in dental wellness for children from babies to teens and we’d love to meet you. Request an appointment today.