251.633.9252

Fillings

Cavity.If you have never had a cavity, congratulations! If you have had one, you are not alone. About 78% of us have had at least one cavity by the time we reach age 17, according to a 2000 report by the U.S. Surgeon General. Fortunately there's a time-tested treatment for cavities: the dental filling.

Fillings do just what the name implies — seal a small hole in your tooth, i.e., a cavity, caused by decay. This prevents the decay (a bacteria-induced infection) from spreading further into your tooth and, if untreated, continue on to the sensitive inner pulp (nerve) tissue located in the root canal. Should that happen, you would need root canal treatment.

There are a variety of materials we use to fill teeth these days, but the process of filling a tooth is similar regardless. First, we do a clinical exam of the tooth and, with x-rays, determine the extent of the decay. Then we need to remove the decayed area of the tooth, usually with a dental drill or another handheld instrument. Your tooth will be anesthetized first, so you won't feel any discomfort. If numbing injections normally provoke anxiety for you, please let us know; we can discuss medication or the use of nitrous oxide, to help with this. After we remove the decay, all debris is cleaned from the tooth, and then the filling material is applied.

Types of Fillings

Fillings can be divided into two broad categories: metal and tooth-colored. Both have advantages and disadvantages, which we would be happy to discuss in detail with you.

Metal Fillings

Metal Filling.

Metal Fillings.Amalgam — The classic “silver” filling in use for more than a century, dental amalgam is actually an alloy made up of mercury, silver, tin, and copper. The mercury combines with the other metals in the amalgam to make it stable and safe. These fillings are strong and inexpensive, but also quite noticeable. They also require relatively more tooth preparation (drilling) than other types.

 

Tooth-Colored Fillings

Tooth-Colored Filling.

Tooth-Colored Fillings.Composite — A popular choice for those who don't want their fillings to show, composite is a mixture of plastic and glass, which actually bonds to the rest of the tooth. Composites are more expensive than amalgam fillings, and the newer materials can hold up almost as long. Less drilling of the tooth is necessary when placing composite as compared to amalgam.

 

What to Expect After Getting a Filling

The numbness caused by your local anesthesia should wear off within a couple of hours. Until then, it's best to avoid drinking hot or cold liquids, and eating on the side of your mouth with the new filling. Some sensitivity to hot and cold is normal in the first couple of weeks after getting a tooth filled. If it persists beyond that, or you have any actual pain when biting, please let us know. This could signal that a bite adjustment to your filling needs to be made. Continue to brush and floss as normal every day, and come in to the dental office at least twice per year for your regular checkups and cleanings. Tooth decay is a very preventable disease; with good oral hygiene and professional care, you can make your most recent cavity your last!

Related Articles

Tooth-Colored Fillings - Dear Doctor Magazine

The Natural Beauty of Tooth-Colored Fillings The public's demand for aesthetic tooth-colored (metal free) restorations (fillings) together with the dental profession's desire to preserve as much natural tooth structure as possible, has led to the development of special “adhesive” tooth-colored restorations... Read Article

Tooth Decay - Dear Doctor Magazine

What is Tooth Decay? – And How to Prevent It! Tooth Decay is an infection, and many people don't realize that it is preventable. This article is the first in a series about tooth decay, perhaps the number one reason children and adults lose teeth during their lifetime. Explore the causes of tooth decay, its prevention and the relationship to bacteria, sugars and acids... Read Article

Tooth Decay - Dear Doctor Magazine

Tooth Decay – How To Assess Your Risk Don't wait for cavities to occur and then have them fixed — stop them before they start. Modern dentistry is moving towards an approach to managing tooth decay that is evidence-based — on years of accumulated, systematic, and valid scientific research. This article discusses what you need to know to assess your risk and change the conditions that lead to decay... Read Article