Fillings and Sealants: What’s the difference?
Dental fillings and dental sealants are two entirely different procedures. While they are both quick cosmetic treatments (take less than half an hour, on average) and both seem to coat or shield the teeth, their materials, purpose, and longevity differ in a number of ways. To make the process clearer, here is a list of the major differences between the two.
Restorative Versus Preventive
The purpose of dental sealants and fillings are one of the major distinctions between the two cosmetic treatments. Fillings are considered a restorative application used on teeth that have been damaged by decay. When a dentist gives you a filling, they will remove the decayed material, clean the affected area and then fill the cleaned out cavity with filling material (for more information, visit our dental fillings blog here). Sealants, on the other hand, are deemed ‘preventative’. A sealant will be used by a dentist to cover a portion of a tooth to prevent damage from occurring.
A dentist will use a filling to restore a tooth after a cavity or a hole has formed in your mouth from tooth decay.
Tooth decay is usually a result of dental plaque which turns sugar into acid. Subsequently, the oral acids in your mouth dissolve the minerals which make up the enamel, such as calcium. This will cause the enamel to weaken, usually evident through discolouration of the tooth, whereby holes or cavities will form in the material.
A filling is therefore inserted into the tooth to prevent any additional damage, with its sole purpose to block the entry of oral bacteria that could result in an infection or even greater decay to the affected tooth. For more information, review our dental fillings blog.
Conversely, sealants are deemed as a ‘preventative’ dental procedure.
Indeed, a sealant can be applied to a tooth which has not suffered any decay. Sealants essentially prevent tooth decay from forming on the pits and fissures of the teeth, providing a physical barricade to protect the natural tooths surfaces and grooves – the perfecting breeding ground for decay to form. Thus, dental sealants shield teeth from the early onset of decay before its too late.
Permanent Vs Temporary
Another distinction between the two dental procedures is their longevity. Whilst both sealants and fillings are considered permanent treatments, it is fillings that usually last longer. Sealants, on the other hand, are regarded as temporary dental procedures – which is why they are often used on children!
On average, dental fillings usually last around 10-15 years. A filling replacement is a fairly rare procedure, as the materials are durable and withstand food supplements and bite resistance.
Dental sealants can usually last up t0 10 years without needing a replacement fitted. However, regular check-ups are required to ensure the materials have not chipped or worn away. Although, these dental procedures can be easily replaced by a hygienist who can add more sealant material if required.