Posted by Dr. Julie Boudreault On 2-04-2020
When a tooth is damaged, it can lose a part of itself. If the tooth were to remain in this incomplete form, it would not only create an unpleasant appearance for your smile but could potentially create a number of other oral concerns.
In order to avoid this, a dental filling is applied to your tooth. A filling is a way to help restore the normal shape and function of a tooth which has been damaged by decay. For example, when you develop a cavity, a dental professional will first remove the decayed portion of the tooth, thoroughly clean out the decayed area, and then fill in the cavity using special material for filling.
If a tooth is left with a large empty cavity, it creates crevices where bacteria can hide and continue to build-up, eventually leading to further tooth decay. Fillings are an excellent way to help close off the spaces in the tooth so that bacteria cannot enter and cause re-infection.
This being said, many people are fearful of undergoing any dental procedure because they are unsure of what is going on in their mouths. It’s important to understand the importance of some of these treatments for your future oral health. The best way to do so is to educate yourself about the procedures.
Fillings are one of the most common types of dental treatments, but if you’re not familiar with fillings or have never had one, let us get you up to speed and help eliminate the fear of the unknown.
What are dental fillings made of?
Fillings are usually made of any one of 5 different materials. The type of material you decide to use should be based on recommendations made by a dental professional. These materials include:
Amalgam fillings are a mixture of metals, including silver, tin, mercury, and copper, but they appear silver in colour.
Amalgam fillings are long-lasting, durable, and very commonly used because they are relatively inexpensive. However, some individuals prefer not to have an obvious silver-colour filling. For this reason, you may choose a more natural-looking filling that may come at a higher price.
Composite fillings are referred to as such because they are composed of a mixture of glass and resin. They are designed to match the natural colour of your teeth.
Unfortunately, composite fillings are not as durable as metal ones, so there is a risk of wear and tear over time. For this reason, composite fillings need to be replaced more often than metal fillings.
Ceramic fillings are made of porcelain, and because of their colour, provide a much more natural-looking filling for your teeth. Ceramic fillings are relatively more expensive than amalgam and composite fillings, however, they do offer greater durability than composite fillings.
Gold fillings are very strong, durable, and able to withstand daily wear and tear. Gold is — unsurprisingly — the slightly more expensive option for a filling, and due to its colour, gold fillings are very obvious. This being said, many people prefer the appearance of the gold colour in their mouths.
Glass ionomer fillings are composed of a mixture of glass and acrylic. They are not necessarily very strong and therefore are normally used to fill in areas that do not undergo any significant stress, such as the front teeth.
Glass ionomer fillings are commonly used for children’s baby teeth. These fillings release fluoride over time, which can be beneficial to the health of your teeth.
How are fillings applied?
The process of applying a filling is quick, pain-free, and uses the following steps:
The numbing process begins with the application of a special numbing gel to the target area. This will be followed by the application of a local anesthetic using a needle. The numbing gel, followed by the local anesthetic, is applied to ensure that you do not feel any pain or discomfort during the procedure.
Once the target area has been appropriately numbed, a rubber dam is placed around the target tooth to help protect it from getting wet during treatment. A bite block is then placed in between your upper and lower teeth to help keep your mouth open while the procedure is being completed.
Once the target area has been numbed and isolated, a dental professional will remove the bacteria and the decayed portion of your tooth from the cavity. They may use either air abrasion or a dental drill if the cavity is especially deep. Once the decay has been removed, the cavity will be thoroughly cleaned out to ensure that all decayed tissues are completely removed. Throughout this cleaning and decay removal process, water will be sprayed onto your tooth to keep the area clean during the treatment.
Applying the filling
The process of applying the filling will vary based on the type of material being used. Once the filling has been applied, the dentist will check to see if it is even by requesting you to bite down on a piece of carbon paper. Any final adjustments, if needed, will be made, and the filling will be smoothed out using a mild abrasive. The final result should be a filling that sits comfortably in your mouth.
Dental Fillings: Aftercare
Dental fillings are relatively straightforward and simple procedures, which means the aftercare associated with them is minimal, and you can return to your normal daily routine. It is still suggested that you follow a few simple instructions after your procedure to ensure that the treatment remains successful. These include:
Temporarily Limit Food and Drinks
Avoid drinking or eating any foods while the numbness is still present. Your gums and lips will remain numb for a few hours post-treatment, so it’s best to avoid food and drinks during this time or carefully chew your food if you do eat.
Monitor for Pain
Watch out for any sensitivity or pain in your tooth or the surrounding area, especially if it continues for more than 2 weeks after treatment.
It’s normal to feel some pain and sensitivity in the tooth that received the filling, as well the surrounding area. However, if the pain and sensitivity lasts for longer than 2 weeks, then it’s important to go back and visit the dentist so they can take a look. Additionally, if you experience any pain when biting, this may be a sign that your filling requires re-shaping.
Maintain Good Oral Hygiene
The lifespan of your filling can be increased by maintaining good oral hygiene. Your filled tooth doesn’t require any special care, so stick to your twice-daily brushing and daily flossing routine to avoid any tooth decay. It’s also important to visit the dentist at least twice a year for a regular check-up. At these check-ups, the dentist can examine your fillings and replace them if they’ve been worn down.
If you have never had a filling before, it is normal to experience some hesitation. This being said, dental fillings are very commonly applied using a quick and painless procedure, so there isn’t anything to fear.
Only a dental professional can determine whether you have developed a cavity that requires a filling. They will do so by using a small mirror to view the surfaces of each of your teeth, or with the use of a dental X-ray.
To learn more about dental fillings and other procedures, call Milltown Dental today at 905-878-8528 or contact us here.