With your little one’s teeth, we like to take preventive measures through the use of sealants on molars to protect those hard to reach back teeth from plaque and damage. Sometimes though, tooth decay sets in and we have to restore your child’s teeth with tooth fillings.
Sealing off teeth is an effective way to reduce the likelihood of developing cavities on the top of teeth. Molars (the teeth toward the back of the mouth) have valleys and grooves in them to help with grinding and tearing food. These grooves are a haven for bacteria, because it is more difficult to clean them out. Proper brushing techniques and regular cleanings can help keep them clear, but a sealant will fill in the grooves enough that regular brushing will be enough to keep the teeth clean.
When a tooth does develop a cavity from tooth decay, the decayed parts need to be removed. As one of the best pediatric dentists in Houston, we will help bring back your child’s smile when tooth decay causes a toothache. After removing the decayed portion of the tooth, it is then filled with one of a few different fillings:
- Silver or Gold Amalgam
- Composite Resin
- Glass Ionomer
Whether sealing or filling, you and your child can rest assured that we will take care of their teeth. We want to help eliminate any pain they may be experiencing, as well as protect the teeth from any further damage. Our expert and friendly staff can bring a smile back to any face.
Sealants fill the grooves and pits found on molars and pre-molars. These grooves frequently get trapped food in them, which can host a lot of bacteria. The bacteria can wear away enamel and cause cavities, but sealants make the teeth easier to clean and protect them from bacterial growth.
Reason for Sealants
The back teeth (molars) are covered with grooves and pits to help with chewing and breaking down food. Unfortunately, these grooves and pits are home to many bacteria. As a result, molars are home to 80% of all cavities found in children. The bacteria likes to congregate here because it’s a hard to clean spot, even with regular brushing. Getting a professional cleaning at the dentist can get rid of the plaque buildup in these areas, but a sealant will fill in the gaps, making it much easier to take care of with brushing.
Types of Sealants
Sealants are made from a few different materials, but most commonly are made from composite resins, which are similar to plastic, but BPA free. Other sealants are made from glass ionomer, and are conditioned with a polyacrylic acid conditioner to help them bond to the teeth. Once bonded to the teeth, whether glass ionomer or composite resin, the sealant will harden and protect the grooves from getting bacterial growth.
The primary benefit of sealing teeth is that the lack of bacterial growth means it’s much less likely to develop cavities on the top of molars. Some current generation sealants are infused with fluoride to help remineralize (strengthen) teeth as well. Even with eating and drinking, a professionally placed sealant will stay in place for five to ten years, and sometimes even longer.
Fillings are used to repair teeth that have been damaged by decay and formed cavities. Fillings are primarily considered a restorative form of dentistry, but they can also be considered cosmetic dentistry, as some fillings can be made to look just like the teeth being repaired.
Preparing for a Filling
When a tooth becomes decayed, the decay needs to be removed to prevent further damage to the tooth and other teeth adjacent to it. In order to prepare for a filling,
- A local anesthetic will be applied to the tooth being worked on as well as the adjacent area. This anesthetic will reduce sensation in the area, minimizing or eliminating any discomfort. A general anesthetic like laughing gas may also be used to help keep your child calm.
- The decayed portion of the tooth is removed using a drill, laser, or air abrasion instrument. We’ll look inside the tooth using a probe to determine how extensive the decay is and determine how much of it needs to be removed.
- Once all of the necessary decay has been removed, we can begin filling it with the best type of filling based on the location of the decay, the severity of the decay, the cost of the filling material and the dental insurance coverage
Types of Fillings
If the decay has reached the root of the tooth, we first fill that area with a composite resin or glass ionomer. The actually filling for the tooth can be one of several different materials.
- Silver Amalgam (mercury, zinc, silver, tin, and copper)
- Composite Resin
Gold, silver, and porcelain are common types of filling, but we can also use composite resins to better match the color of the teeth, giving a more natural appearance. Tooth-colored resins need to be applied one layer at a time so they can be cured, which hardens the layer. This process can take longer than other fillings and you may want to consider this information in regards to your child’s tendency to remain comfortable for long periods of time.