Written by Danica Lacson on September 26, 2018
What are Dental Fillings?
A dental filling is a type of dental restoration used to treat and restore the function, quality, and form of a tooth with missing structure as a result of cavities or external trauma.
How is a Dental Filling Procedure done?
Before the Procedure
Before undergoing the procedure of dental fillings, your dentist will need to determine if you have tooth decay and the extent of the damage. Some of the methods include:
- Observation where the dentist uses an explorer to probe for possible decay. A healthy tooth enamel is hard and will likely resist the pressure from the explorer. On the one hand, a decayed enamel is softer, and make the instrument stick in it slightly. An explorer is a metal tool with a sharp tip. Caution must be observed as pressing too hard can do damage to a healthy tooth. It can also cause decay to other teeth by spreading the bacteria.
- Cavity-detecting dye is rinsed over the teeth. Decayed areas will be stuck with the dye, while healthy teeth will rinse off cleanly.
- X-rays show the developing decay in the enamel on the sides of the teeth where they meet. Decay in the dentin which lies under the enamel can also be detected. But, X-rays are rarely accurate in detecting smaller cavities on occlusal or top surfaces, and current fillings and other restorations may also block the view.
- Laser fluorescence cavity detection aids are useful for pit and fissure areas on the surfaces of the molar and premolar teeth. These detection aids are small wands that measure the changes caused by dental caries.
During the Procedure
If necessary, your dentist will administer local anesthesia to numb the area where the procedure will be done. Your dentist then removes the decayed materials first and cleans the affected area using a drill or a laser. Initially, a high speed drill will be used to removed the decayed area. A lower speed drill will then be used once it reaches the dentin as it is softer and more delicate than the enamel.
Afterward, the area will be shaped in preparation for the filling. Next, the filling material fills the cleaned-out cavity. Through this method, the spaces are closed off, preventing bacteria from entering and helping avoid further decay. To seal off the filling, a special light will be used to harden the material and strengthen it.
After the Procedure
Tooth sensitivity may be experienced following the dental filling procedure, as well as, tooth pain. Although these occurrences are normal especially during the first few days after the procedure, inform your dentist about your condition so he or she will make the necessary adjustments or prescriptions.
Additionally, a galvanic shock which is a very sharp shock may also be felt when your teeth touch. This shock happens because two metals produce an electric current in your mouth, taking for instance, an amalgam filling at the upper tooth and a gold crown on the lower tooth.
What are the Types of Dental Fillings?
There are also various materials used as dental fillings. The right material for your teeth is determined by the extent of repair needed, allergies that you may have to certain materials, the location of the teeth that needed filling and the amount you are willing to pay.
The following are the different materials used as Dental Fillings:
Gold fillings are made-to-order in a laboratory and cemented into place. This type of fillings is well-tolerated by gum tissues and can last for more than 20 years. Gold fillings are considered the best material for the procedure. But, it is also the most expensive. It also requires many visits to the dentist.
Amalgam or silver fillings is a liquid mercury and metal alloy mixture. This type of fillings is resistant to wear. Mercury, when mixed with an alloy powder, creates a compound that is soft enough to mix and press into the tooth. The compound also hardens quickly and can withstand the forces of biting and showing. Concerns have been raised regarding the safety of mercury as a material for a dental filling. But, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) assured that amalgam fillings are safe and found no reason to limit their use. Amalgam fillings are also inexpensive compared to other materials. The downside is that they are more obvious because of their dark color.
Composite resins are a tooth-colored mixture of plastic and glass. When natural appearance is desired for the teeth, you may opt to use this type of feeling. The ingredients are mixed and placed into the cavity and left to harden. Composite resins are not ideal for large fillings because of their tendency to chip or wear over time. This type of fillings is susceptible to stains from coffee, tea, or tobacco. They also do not last long compared to other filling materials.
Porcelain or Ceramic Fillings
Porcelain or ceramic fillings are also known as inlays or onlays. Like gold fillings, they are produced to order in a laboratory and then bonded to the tooth. This type of fillings is more resistant to staining than composite resins. They can also be matched to the color of the tooth and covers most of it. Porcelain fillings can last for more than 15 years, but cost like gold fillings.
Why Should I Get Dental Fillings?
- You have cavities. Dental fillings are one of the most common dental procedures done to save the teeth. Through a dental filling procedure, cavities are removed and filled with a material to strengthen the tooth and prevent cavities from infecting it again.
- Your tooth has a hole. Still, this dental procedure is not only for big holes caused by cavities. It is also a beneficial procedure for small holes on the teeth whether caused by cavities or not. Through a dental filling procedure, the potential for food to accumulate and be trapped in the hole will be less likely and possible expansion of the hole will also be prevented before things get worse.
- You fractured your tooth. If you happen to fracture your tooth for whatever reason, a dental filling procedure may be recommended by your dentist to save your tooth.
What Should I Do With Broken Fillings?
Dental fillings can fall out for various reasons including when biting down too hard on a tooth, the filling material which cannot withstand the forces, and saliva disrupting the bonding process during the procedure. Fillings can also crack, leak, and be worn-out.
When such occur, it is best to visit your dentist as soon as possible to prevent worst-case scenarios from happening. Your dentist will advise you to have it repaired or replaced, depending on the condition of your filling and tooth.
What Should I Do To Avoid Getting A Dental Filling?
Take preventive steps against tooth decay through simple habits. Practices, like brushing your teeth, flossing, and using mouthwash, are the basic step to protecting your teeth. Opting for teeth-friendly diet and checking up with your dentist twice a year are also advised.
These simple steps can save you the cost and hassle of dental filling procedure and other treatments.
Disclaimer: The oral health information published on this web page is solely intended for educational purposes. Hawaii Family Dental strongly recommends to always consult licensed dentists or other qualified health care professionals for any questions concerning your oral health.