WHAT ARE DENTAL FILLINGS?
To treat a cavity your dentist will remove the decayed portion of the tooth and then “fill” the area on the tooth where the decayed material was removed.
Fillings are also used to repair cracked or broken teeth and teeth that have been worn down from nail-biting or tooth grinding.
TYPES OF FILLINGS
- Gold fillings are made to order in a laboratory and then cemented into place. Gold inlays are well tolerated by gum tissues, and may last more than 20 years. For these reasons, many authorities consider gold the best filling material. However, it is often the most expensive choice and requires multiple visits.
- Amalgam (silver) fillings are resistant to wear and relatively inexpensive. However, due to their dark color, they are more noticeable than porcelain or composite restorations and are not usually used in very visible areas, such as front teeth.
- Composite (plastic) resins are matched to be the same color as your teeth and therefore used where a natural appearance is desired. The ingredients are mixed and placed directly into the cavity, where they harden. Composites may not be the ideal material for large fillings as they may chip or wear over time. They can also become stained from coffee, tea or tobacco, and do not last as long as other types of fillings generally from three to 10 years.
- Porcelain fillings are called inlays or onlays and are produced to order in a lab and then bonded to the tooth. They can be matched to the color of the tooth and resist staining. A porcelain restoration generally covers most of the tooth. Their cost is similar to gold.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I NEED A FILLING?
Only your dentist can detect whether you have a cavity that needs to be filled. During a checkup, your dentist will use a small mirror to examine the surfaces of each tooth.
Anything that looks abnormal will then be closely checked with special instruments. Your dentist may also X-ray your entire mouth or a section of it. The type of treatment your dentist chooses will depend on the extent of damage caused by decay.
What to Expect with Dental Fillings
When you find out your have a cavity, you may be understandably nervous about getting dental fillings. However, if a dentist doesn’t clear away the damaged portion of the tooth, decay will spread, destroying the tooth and potentially moving to other teeth and oral tissue.
In fact, you’ll find the process of installing dental fillings relatively quick and painless. We’ll start by administering local anesthetic to the area to ensure comfort throughout the procedure. When the area is numb, we’ll remove the decay and thoroughly clean the tooth using a drill and other specialized tools.
Once this is complete, your tooth will have an exposed opening that must be filled. You can choose from gold, amalgam, composite, or porcelain dental filling materials.
Depending on the type of filling you choose, we may install it the same day, or you might have to return for a follow-up visit once the custom filling has been created to perfectly fit your tooth. When dental fillings are bonded to the tooth, you’ll regain function and enjoy years of use, with proper care.