Attending to your oral health is a necessary part of attending to your overall health since the state of your mouth directly affects the health of your overall body. Having a poor smile can negatively impact your self-esteem, which affects your mental and emotional health, while certain types of dental infections can cause you to run a fever and become physically ill, affecting your physical health. Great advances have been made in science and technology that have made seeing to your dental health more possible than ever. Instead of dealing with decayed teeth, there are restorative and preventative dental measures that you can take to make your teeth healthy.
What Is the Difference Between Dental Fillings and Dental Sealants?
Although the terms “dental filling” and “dental sealant” are oftentimes used interchangeably, they are, in fact, two different concepts. While both are types of materials that are placed onto the teeth, the materials themselves are as different in composition as they are in the intent for their placement. Whereas a dental filling is usually placed within a tooth to help prevent the further decaying of the tooth, a dental sealant is a preventative measure that is placed over a tooth before decaying to keep the decaying from occurring in the first place. Although a dental filling is most often used to treat a cavity, it is also sometimes used to help restore a cracked or broken tooth as well as teeth that have been worn down from misuse.
Types of Dental Fillings
There are many types of dental fillings. Typically fillings are constructed from numerous types of materials, but among the most common include composite resin and amalgam materials. Amalgam dental fillings are usually comprised of a mixture of mercury mixed with metals, such as zinc, copper, tin and silver. Hence, these types of dental fillings tend to have a metallic appearance. They tend to be the more affordable type of filling option, but they aren’t always necessarily the most popular. People who would rather have a dental filling that has more of the appearance of the natural tooth so it’s not as noticeable in their mouths tend to opt for porcelain composite resins. These types of resins blend in with the natural color of the tooth, so they won’t stand out as much as their metallic counterparts. Still, some people prefer to get cast gold dental fillings due to their durability and longer-lasting projected lifespan, despite the noticeability of their gold appearance..
When to Get a Dental Sealant
Dental sealants are always made of plastic, and instead of being inserted into the tooth to fill a decayed hole, they are placed over a tooth and are specially designed to mold against the grooves and crevices of the tooth to prevent food particles from becoming trapped against the tooth and causing the decay that would eventually lead to the need for a dental filling. Whereas dental fillings are usually placed just whenever a decay is found and they are needed, the recommended time for people to get a dental sealant is early on during their childhood years. Many dentists recommend that parents opt for putting dental sealants on their children’s molars. This is because these teeth located in the back of the mouth are the ones that usually receive the most trapped food since they are the primary teeth that people use to chew.
How Long Do Dental Fillings and Sealants Last?
Dental fillings and sealants are also quite different in how long each one lasts patients. Whereas, with proper care and depending upon the material that they’re made from, dental fillings can last anywhere from 5 to 10 years or longer, dental sealants generally last much less longer. Although some really good sealants have been know to last up to 10 years, most are more susceptible to becoming worn down many years before that time period. Additionally, because sealants are merely painted on the teeth, they can more easily come off if the patient eats much sticky food, chews gum or practices any type of misuse of the teeth, such as teeth grinding or nail biting. It’s much more likely for sealants to attach themselves to sticky particles and be striped from the gum and tooth than it is for a dental filling to do so. Many dentists do recommend, however, that people who tend to be prone to cavities keep a dental sealant on their teeth at all times. That is, when their sealants wear off or break down, they should have them replaced to prevent the likelihood of having to receive a dental filling in the future.
Colgate. “What is a filling?” Retrieved on December 5, 2016, from http://www.colgate.com/en/us/oc/oral-health/procedures/fillings/article/what-is-a-filling.
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American Dental Association. “Dental sealants.” Retrieved on December 5, 2016, from http://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/dental-sealants.
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