Sealants & Fillings


A dental sealant is a safe material that is painted on to the chewing surfaces of the posterior teeth (molars and premolars) and serves as a physical barrier to germs and food that may cause tooth decay. Although sealants are primarily designed for children, adults who have a history of active decay should consider having sealants placed on the posterior (back) teeth when recommended by the doctor. Even if you have not had a cavity for a long time, consider the application of a sealant as preventive measure. Perhaps you may never develop decay on the unsealed surface; but, just as you insure your home against destruction by natural disaster, a sealant insures the tooth surface from decay.

Sealants can last up to fifteen years with proper oral home care and regular recare visits. They are 100% effective in reducing tooth decay as long as they remain intact. Sealants not only prevent cavities but can also arrest the progress of decay. Investing in sealants can very well save you hundreds to thousands of dollars in the future by minimizing the need for more costly procedures.

Sealants are not intended to replace regular recare visits. The condition of your sealants will be evaluated at each recare visit to ensure the seal has not been compromised. A sealant will not function as intended when the seal has been broken and early detection will allow for repairs that will continue to prevent the development of decay. We encourage you to ask your hygienist about sealants during your next recare visit.


When it comes to fillings it’s important to understand that a filling is not just a filling. Your doctor will help you determine the type of restoration that is best for you based upon the location and condition of the tooth involved, your health history, cosmetic expectations, and dental budget. At Helena Family Dental, we firmly believe in taking the time to discuss treatment options and potential outcomes with you so you may make a well informed decision about your care. You can expect your doctor to consider the health and appearance of your teeth, as well as how you will feel about your smile, when making treatment recommendations.


Placement of amalgam, or silver colored, fillings in the anterior teeth would be unsightly; therefore, they are generally only considered acceptable for placement on the posterior teeth. These fillings offer no aesthetic value, are visible while eating and speaking, and may cause further cosmetic concern as the metal ages, corrodes, or darkens. Changes in temperature from food and drinks consumed will cause the restoration to expand and contract ultimately resulting in weakening, or possibly fracture, of the tooth. Furthermore, if the tooth requires a large filling the remaining natural tooth structure may appear dark or gray in color. Amalgam fillings are not discrete and do not boast of good health; therefore, most patients opt for composite fillings.


A resin composite, or tooth colored, restoration offers a natural appearance in contrast to traditional amalgam, or silver colored, fillings. Composite fillings are considered to be the most conservative restoration available because they require less tooth preparation, or drilling. The tooth becomes weaker as the amount of preparation increases and smaller restorations last longer, so it’s best to keep it to a minimum.

Composite and amalgam fillings may last up to ten to twelve years depending on the size and position of the restoration, foods eaten, and proper care. Composites are more complex to place than amalgams; therefore, the cost associated with them is also higher. Your doctor will recommend the restorative materials best suited to meet your dental needs. Insurance coverage, or lack thereof, will never dictate what dental treatment we feel you need and deserve. Our goal is to provide you with the best and longest lasting restorations possible. Your doctor will be glad to discuss these options with you.


Sedative restorations are most commonly placed in deeply decayed teeth that are causing discomfort. A medicated, sedative filling will be temporarily placed in the area where the decay has been removed to allow time for the nerve to calm and the tooth to heal. After the completion of this period of time, the sedative restoration will be removed and the tooth will be examined to determine the need for further treatment. Your doctor may be able to restore the tooth with a filling or another restoration such as an inlay, onlay, or overlay. However, If the decay was quite deep and the nerve does not heal; endodontic treatment, or root canal therapy, will be necessary to alleviate discomfort and save the tooth.

If you have multiple large cavities and/or other serious dental problems, we may choose to first restore all the teeth with sedative restorations. This will quickly stabilize the teeth so that they do not continue to deteriorate from the decay as we address the other more serious dental problems. Once you are out of that urgent dental situation, the doctor will thoroughly plan the best methods to restore your teeth.


Sedative restorations may also be used as an aid in diagnosing sensitive teeth. You may have a problem with a single tooth, or perhaps you are unable to specifically pinpoint the exact tooth. If the suspect tooth (or teeth) already has a restoration in it, your doctor may need to remove the restoration to directly visualize the prepared portions of the tooth. If your doctor does not feel that it is appropriate to place a final restoration at that time, a sedative restoration will be placed to allow the tooth to heal enough for the final restoration. At times, the tooth feels better as soon as the sedative restoration is placed; however, it will still be necessary to observe the tooth for a few weeks before placing a final restoration.

Rarely, the placement of the sedative restoration offers no apparent relief. In this case other possibilities must be explored. Most often the tooth will require endodontic treatment. Other times, it just takes several days for the patient to notice relief from the temporary restoration. It’s important to allow the sedative restoration time to work, but under no circumstances must you live in constant discomfort. Do not hesitate to call and ask to be seen if the sedative restoration does not seem to be effective.

If you have any questions about sedative restorations, please feel free to ask us.

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