Dental Sealants Vs. Fillings: How Do They Differ?

Dental Sealants Vs. Fillings: How Do They Differ?

Apr 01, 2020

Dental sealants and tooth fillings are some of the most commonly used treatments by dentists for shielding teeth. It might look like they have similar purposes, but dentists use each for entirely different purposes. Your dentist will use either of these when protecting your teeth against imminent tooth decay, or from a developing condition, but they all have different purposes.

A pediatric dentist at LUV Pediatric Dentistry will either choose fillings or sealants for your child’s teeth, but how do you determine which is best for them? Read along for a brief understanding of how these two dental prostheses differ. Let’s first pick up what each of them is.

Dental Sealants

Dental sealants come as thin, tooth-colored plastic coatings. It is painted on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth mostly to safeguard against tooth decay. This is because it is the pre-molars and molars that are more liable to deep cavities, which cause decay.

Once applied, the sealant naturally bonds into the teeth depressions forming a formidable shield on your tooth enamel. This shield prevents plaque acid build-up on the enamel, thus delaying decay formation.

After the tooth sealant is applied, it is treated with UV light, hardening it so it can withstand strong bites. Your bite is then aligned for comfort, and the tooth surface smoothened so it’s easy to clean and safe from decay.

Dental Fillings

Fillings are a type of restorative dentistry that “fills holes” created by dental decay on your tooth. Before a filling is placed, the decay is first removed, and the groove cleansed of any bacteria.

Fillings are primarily fashioned from tooth-colored composite material or amalgam (silver). Composite resin is, however, the most preferred due to its cosmetic advantages. During dental filling therapy, your tooth is numbed with a sedative, so you totally don’t feel any pain or discomfort.

Any existing decay or restoration is also removed, and the cavity cleaned to prepare your tooth for filling. After the material is applied, your dentist hardens the cavity filling material with UV light, then smooths the area for an even bite.

What Are Their Differences?

Differences between fillings and sealants can either be due to the purpose of use, make material, and durability. Below are some definitions to make the difference more transparent.

  • Make Material

Dental Fillings – Fillings have a wide variety of materials they are made from. These can either be porcelain, silver amalgams, gold, and composite resins. Silver amalgam is usually an alloy of liquid mercury, silver, copper, and tin. Porcelain and composite resins are more preferred due to their aesthetics and durability.

Dental Sealants – Sealants are exclusively made from plastic. Dentists apply it to the teeth in a molten state then hardened by UV light for strength and durability.

  • Permanence

Although both treatments are long-lasting, dental fillings are considered permanent, while sealants are more temporary.

Dental Fillings – Materials used for fillings are strong enough to last long. They can withstand pressure from hard bites and are less susceptible to wear down with time. They rarely need replacements.

Sealants – Unlike dental fillings, sealants are placed on the outer chewing surface of the tooth. Although they are strong, the grinding effect while chewing easily wears them out compared to fillings. With time dental sealants erode and need to be replaced. They can, however, still remain intact for a number of years.

  • Purpose

Fillings and sealants are both used as teeth therapies. Fillings, however, serve restorative purposes while tooth sealants are more preventative. Dental fillings repair the damage that has already occurred on a tooth.

Sealants, on the other hand, are applied on the tooth surface to safeguard it against possible damage.

Dental Fillings – Fillings are used habitually on a tooth that has been damaged by severe cavities or decay. To treat your tooth, the doctor gets rid of the decayed portion of the tooth enamel, cleans it, and places the filling. Fillings restore the lost part of the tooth at the same time preventing further entry of bacteria that could revive the infection and cause more damage.

Tooth Sealants – Dental sealants are mostly applied on the back molars and premolars, which have deep grooves that are possible surfaces for plaque to settle. Once this plaque settles, it makes it easier for decay to set in due to the formation of oral acids that corrode the tooth enamel. Dental sealants cover these grooves and provide a barrier between the enamel and oral acids; hence your tooth is sheltered from decay.

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