Sealants and Fillings
Healthy teeth are able to protect themselves from bacteria and decay thanks to a protective covering of enamel on the outermost part of the tooth. You restore this protective covering when you brush your teeth and use mouth rinse. Flossing removes particles that could lead to decay if left in one spot for too long. Sometimes, they may need an extra level of protection or some restoration in the form of sealants and fillings, respectively.
Sealing teeth is a preventative measure to protect against decay. Even if teeth are well taken care of can be at risk of decay. The tops of molars have divots and gaps for grinding and tearing food when we chew. These little crevices can be very difficult to clean with a toothbrush and mouth rinse.
Bacteria tends to collect in these areas since they are tougher to clean. Sealants fill in the gaps using a composite resin. It smooth’s out the top surface of the molars making them much easier to brush and clean effectively. Bacteria is unable to hide in any divots away from probing bristles and toothpicks.
If bacteria collects on the teeth and isn’t removed, it will wear away the protective mineral layers and eventually the enamel as well. These cavities expose the very sensitive dentin of the inner portion of teeth. The dentin is a bony protective layer that protects the heart of the tooth where the blood vessels and nerves of the teeth are, and if this part becomes infected, it can cause serious damage to the tooth and potentially more of your mouth, including the gums and jaw bones.
When bacteria has caused enough decay to cause a cavity and expose the dentin underneath, or worse the pulp that houses blood vessels and nerves, it needs to be filled to prevent further damage. While sealants are a preventative measure for protecting teeth, fillings are a reactive measure, but they work in much the same way.
There are several materials in use for filling teeth.
- Silver Amalgam
- Gold Amalgam
- Composite Resin
- Glass Ionomer
The material used has a definite effect on the cost and appearance of the filling. All of them work well to prevent further damage to the dentin, but they will each look a bit different and have different cost levels. Metal amalgams are usually on the more affordable end, but will stand out more. Porcelain and composite resins will look more natural, but will be more costly.