If your child has cavities, you may be wondering if sealants or fillings are the right solutions. Here is a look at what each procedure involves and when it might be recommended.
What are dental sealants?
Dental sealants are thin, plastic coatings that are applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth — molars and premolars. These areas are especially prone to cavities because they are hard to reach with a toothbrush.
Sealants fill in the tiny grooves on these teeth, creating a smooth surface that is less likely to trap food and bacteria. Sealants are usually applied to children’s teeth soon after they come in (erupt), but they can also be used on adults.
What are dental fillings?
Dental fillings, also called restorations, are used to repair teeth damaged by cavities. They are also used to repair cracked or broken teeth and to treat tooth decay. Fillings are usually done under local anesthesia, which numbs the area around the tooth. Next, the dentist will remove the decayed portion of the tooth and then clean the area before filling it.
There are several types of fillings that you can choose from, including:
- Amalgam (silver) fillings: These are the most common type of fillings and are made from a mixture of metals, including silver, mercury, tin, and copper.
- Composite (tooth-colored) fillings: These are made from a resin that matches the color of your child’s teeth. They are less visible than amalgam fillings but may not be as durable.
- Gold fillings: These are made from gold and other metals. They are strong and durable but also the most expensive option.
- Porcelain (ceramic) fillings: These are made from a type of glass and ceramic that is matched to the color of your child’s teeth.
Your dentist will recommend a type of filling based on the location and severity of the cavity, as well as your personal preferences.
What factors can cause a child to need sealants or fillings?
There are a few factors that can cause a child to need sealants or fillings:
- Poor oral hygiene: If your child does not brush and floss regularly, they are more likely to develop cavities.
- Diet: A diet high in sugar can increase the risk of cavities.
- Dry mouth: This can be caused by certain medical conditions or medications. A lack of saliva can lead to an increased risk of cavities.
- Crowded teeth: This can make it harder to clean the teeth and increase the risk of cavities.
- Family history: If you have a family history of cavities, your child may be more likely to develop them.
When are sealants needed?
Sealants are typically recommended for children, as this is when cavities are most likely to develop. However, adults can also benefit from sealants if they have deep grooves in their teeth or if they are at high risk for cavities.
When are fillings needed?
Fillings are usually recommended when a cavity has already formed. However, in some cases, your dentist may recommend preventive fillings. These are typically used when decay is found in its early stages or when there’s a high risk of decay developing.
Difference between sealants and fillings
The main difference between sealants and fillings is that sealants are used to prevent tooth decay, while fillings are used to treat tooth decay. Sealants are usually made of plastic or resin and are applied to the grooves on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth.
Fillings, on the other hand, are made of materials such as gold, silver, composite resin, or ceramic. They are used to fill in the cavities created by tooth decay.
Do sealants and fillings last forever?
No, dental sealants and fillings do not last forever. They may last for several years before they need to be replaced. Your child will need to see their dentist for regular checkups so that any worn or damaged sealants or fillings can be repaired or replaced.
Benefits of sealants for children
Sealants are a good option for children because they can help to prevent cavities. Sealants fill the grooves on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth, making it harder for food and plaque to collect there. This can help to reduce the risk of cavities.
Sealants can also help your child avoid fillings and save you money in the long run by preventing more serious dental problems down the road.
How to prevent the need for sealants or fillings
The best way to prevent the need for sealants or fillings is to practice good oral hygiene. This means brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily, and visiting the dentist regularly. A healthy diet low in sugar can also help reduce the risk of cavities.
Nevertheless, if you are concerned about your child’s oral health, talk to a pediatric dentist. They can help you determine if sealants or fillings are needed and make recommendations for preventing cavities in the future.