A dental filling is the standard procedure for treating a cavity. As a cavity becomes more extensive, the tooth loses its shape and becomes more susceptible to sensitivity and damage. A filling helps restore the shape of the tooth and prevents further damage and disease.
Other reasons you may need a filling include a fractured tooth, sensitivity, or to fill small holes in your teeth that can naturally appear as you get older.
The Different Types of Fillings
There are different types of fillings. Ask your dentist if you want a specific type of filling.
Gold Fillings: Gold fillings are among the most durable filling types. Many last ten or more years. However, it's also the most expensive, doesn't match the tooth color, and may require multiple visits.
Amalgam (Silver) Fillings: Amalgam, or silver fillings, are nearly as strong as gold fillings and cost less. However, it may require shaving down healthy parts of the tooth and cause the rest of the tooth to look grey.
Composite Fillings: Composite, or natural colored fillings, match the color of your teeth. They're the most visually appealing but only last for five years.
Porcelain or Ceramic Fillings: Porcelain fillings share the same durability as gold and can be color-matched to your existing teeth. Many people find porcelain fillings to be the best investment, despite the higher cost.
When is a Filling Needed?
#1 You have cavities. Dental fillings are one of the most common dental procedures done to save teeth. Cavities are removed and filled with a material to strengthen the tooth and prevent cavities from infecting it again through a dental filling procedure.
#2 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 in the teeth, whether caused by cavities or not.
#3 You fractured your tooth. If you happen to crack your tooth, you'll need a filling.
Amalgam vs. Composite: Pros and Cons
Sometimes, to know the difference between two things, you need to weigh their strengths and weaknesses, especially when it comes to your health.
The age-old rivalry of amalgam vs. composite fillings, in a way, all boils down to principle. People typically get composite fillings for the same reasons: they're pretty to look at and contain no metal. The latter, in particular, has traction among a specific group of people. But while a composite filling will make your teeth look like they never had a cavity in the first place, they're also less durable. As a result, you might need to take multiple trips to the dental office to re-fill your cavity. And the worst part? You're also more likely to get tooth decay again.
Amalgam fillings, on the other hand, aren't as pretty and can contain some questionable substances. In particular, mercury is one ingredient that's moved chunks of people to shake off metal restorations altogether. But while silver fillings do contain mercury, they've already bonded to other metals, neutralizing any harmful effects. They're also less expensive and often covered by insurance. Of course, if you do find that you're allergic to any of the metals in this type of filling, you might want to consider other options.
What Should I Do With Broken Fillings?
Dental fillings can fall out for various reasons, including biting too hard on a tooth, filling material that cannot withstand the forces, and saliva disrupting the bonding process during the procedure. Fillings can also crack, leak, and wear 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 recommend having it repaired or replaced, depending on your filling and tooth condition.
How to Take Care of Fillings
For the most part, modern dental fillings tend to hold well on their own. That's because dentists use biocompatible dental materials. When something is biocompatible, this means that it's more likely to bond with human tissue without any adverse effects. But sometimes, you find yourself with a loose filling. Or, if you have a metal-free filling, a worn-down one.
That said, knowing how to take care of fillings makes all the difference in preventing these mishaps. Here are some tips that can make doing that much easier:
Be mindful of your fillings in the first few days
When you first get silver fillings or white fillings, the early 24 hours are crucial. While it might be safe to eat, drink, or brush your teeth during this time, it's important to note that your dental filling might not have been set yet. When in doubt, be gentle when you do your oral hygiene routine. Don't grind or clench your teeth, and make sure you don't bite too hard around the area.
Be careful of what you eat
Diet is, without a doubt, an important aspect when it comes to taking care of your oral health. When you eat, you're giving your teeth the nutrients and minerals it needs to fend off harmful oral bacteria and other threats. Avoid food that could potentially wear down or take out the filling - this is particularly important for the first 24 hours.
Have a solid oral hygiene routine
Sticking to a regular oral hygiene routine can distinguish between a successful dental filling and a faulty one. Don't worry if you're worried about accidentally dislodging your filling while brushing your teeth after filling. Just be gentle around the area, and you should be just fine.
Avoid oral health products that contain alcohol
Alcohol and dental fillings are two things that don't go together. You could stain or even wear down the filling material whenever you use oral health products that contain alcohol—like mouthwash and some toothpaste. Be sure to check the label whenever you purchase those implements.
Eat on the opposite side of your mouth
As the saying goes, it's better to be safe than sorry. The easiest way how to take care of fillings is by eating on the side of your mouth without dental work. The less contact you have with your dental filling, the better.