Sealants are used to fill narrow grooves in a tooth that cannot be adequately cleaned by brushing. In some cases, the tooth structure has fine grooves or pits which accumulate plaque, not because the person doesn’t brush, but because they’re too narrow to allow even one bristle into them. To avoid cavities developing over time, the dentist will brush on a coating that seals the grooves and pits, making it possible to brush off all the plaque and keep your teeth healthy.
Bonding involves adhering composite resin material that is matched to the color of the tooth, to the front of the tooth. This is performed to repair damage caused by decay, to alter the alignment of the tooth, close gaps between the teeth, or for other cosmetic purposes.
First the surface of the tooth is roughened in order to accept the bonding. A gel is applied so the resin will adhere to the surface of the tooth. The composite is then placed on the tooth and the bonding agent hardens with intense light. The last step is shaping and polishing to give a lustrous finish.
A filling is a way to restore a tooth damaged by decay back to its normal function and shape. If you have a tooth that requires a filling, the dentist will first remove the decayed tooth material, clean the affected area, and then fill the cleaned out cavity with a filling material. A filling helps prevent further decay by closing off any cracks or spaces where bacteria can enter.
There are a variety of filling materials available including gold, plastic, and porcelain. The dentist will work with you to determine which material is best, depending on the extent of repair, where in the filling is needed, and cost. Each filling material is briefly explained below:
- Gold fillings are custom made in a laboratory and then cemented into place. While gold fillings are often the most expensive choice, many consider it the best filling material. Gold inlays are well-tolerated by gum tissues and may last more than 20 years.
- Composite (plastic) resins are custom made to the exact color of your natural teeth, creating a more natural appearance. They can become stained from coffee, tea, or tobacco just like natural teeth.
- Porcelain fillings are called inlays or onlays and are custom created in a lab and then bonded to the tooth. They can be matched to the color of the tooth, resist staining, and are about the same cost as gold fillings. A porcelain restoration generally covers most of the tooth, making the filling nearly undetectable.
If decay or a fracture has damaged a large portion of the tooth, a crown (or “cap”) may be recommended. Decay that has reached the nerve may be treated through root canal therapy or through a procedure called pulp capping.