Fillings vs. Sealants- What's The Difference

October is finally here and that means cooler weather, cozy sweaters, changing leaves, pumpkin spice everything, and of course, Halloween. For many children, there are few things more exciting than playing dress up and eating what seems like an unlimited supply of candy. But that same fun holiday can be concerning for parents as they worry about their little Superman or Wonder Woman’s teeth and the cavities they could be getting from all that sugar. It’s important to know that cavities and decay don’t pop up after one Halloween’s worth of loot – they form over time.

If you’ve ever had cavities or even if you’re concerned you or your little ones could get them, you’ve probably heard the terms ‘fillings’ and ‘sealants’ from your dentist or even online.

Most people understand the basic idea of a filling (get a cavity, go to the dentist, get a filling, no more cavity.) What most people don’t know is that there is a way to prevent cavities other than obsessively brushing or flossing after every bite.


So What’s The Difference Between Sealants And Fillings?

In a nutshell, sealants are proactive and fillings are reactive.


Sealants are like fillings but are applied to cavity-free teeth and mainly in young children. However, they can be used in adults as well if the dentist deems it appropriate. The sealant acts as the outer layer of the enamel and keeps the tooth safe from food particles and other bacteria, which typically cause cavities to develop. They are painted onto the exterior of the tooth to protect the tiny grooves and crannies from bacteria. Tooth grinding, sticky foods, and acids have been known to wear away sealants, making them a more temporary solution.



Once there is actual decay, composite (tooth colored) fillings are the answer IF there is still plenty of healthy tooth left. The composite resins are natural looking and durable, built to withstand everyday chewing and can last a long time if cared for properly.


First, the dentist will remove all decay and thoroughly clean the area. After, he will apply the filling material to the area to prevent damage from reoccurring and eliminate any pain. Side note: composite fillings are one of the most labor-intensive procedures a dentist performs. The fillings have to be ‘layered’, small amounts at a time, each layer cured with a special light, all while keeping the tooth absolutely dry in a decidedly very wet environment!


Making The Best Choice For You

When choosing between a sealant and a filling, the state of the tooth will usually make that decision for you. Talk to your dentist and after determining the extent of the damage, if any, to the tooth in question, he/she will guide you as to which option will fit your child’s needs best.

Though the thought of your child having a cavity can be overwhelming, having these solutions in your back pocket should ease your mind when she is biting into her 10th Reese’s Pumpkin.

Mark M. Davis, DDS General and Cosmetic Dentist in Tulsa since 1982

You Might Also Enjoy...

What is TMJ?

What is TMJ disorder? What are some of the symptoms? What causes TMJ disorder? How can I fix TMJ disorder?

Why your at-home teeth whitening doesn't work

Tried all the teeth whitening kits, but still have dull, stained, or yellow teeth? Read on to find out why your at-home teeth whitening doesn't work and what you can do to get a brighter, whiter smile.