If you have cavity symptoms, you may have pain in your teeth(link with Why do I have toothache and how can I treat it?) or in your gums. Cavity pain relief depends on the extent of your tooth decay. Regardless if your cavity symptoms are mild or severe, you should visit your dentist as you may need a filling.
What Is A Cavity Filling?
A cavity is when the hard surface of your tooth is damaged and that damage develops into a hole. Basically, a cavity is tooth decay. This is often caused by bacteria, which builds up from eating unhealthy food and not caring for your teeth properly.
Symptoms typically happen when a cavity is more developed, so you may not notice a cavity until it’s too late. However, if you catch a cavity early, you may be able to reverse the tooth decay and it may not be necessary to fill the cavity.
Here are the most common signs of a cavity:
- Tooth pain, usually happening for no apparent reason
- Sensitive teeth
- Moderate pain when you eat or drink
- Visible openings in your teeth
- Discoloration of the surface of a tooth (brown, black, or white)
If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your dentist right away. They will most likely have to fill the cavity.
A cavity filling is when the dentist fills the hole in your tooth with some sort of material. The hope is to get rid of your symptoms and make the tooth more aesthetically pleasing.
Dental Filling Options
When it comes to having a cavity filled, it’s important to know that you have the right to decide, after consultation with your dentist, what treatments and materials are used for your dental care. Your dentist considers materials to use on an individualized basis, taking into account the size and location of your cavity. Cosmetic considerations, how long the filling could last and out of pocket costs are some other factors you might want to consider. Talk with your dentist so that together you may choose the material that’s right for you.
Here are some common dental filling options:
- Composite resins, or tooth-colored fillings, are a mixture of glass or quartz filler that provide good durability and resistance to fracture in small- to mid-size fillings that need to withstand moderate pressure from chewing. They can be used on either front or back teeth.
- Dental amalgam, sometimes described as “silver-colored” fillings, is made from a combination of metals that include mercury, silver, tin, and copper. Dental amalgam has been used for generations by dentists. Amalgam is very durable and more affordable than tooth-colored or gold fillings; however tooth-colored materials are more natural looking.
- Gold fillings, also called inlays or onlays, are composed of an alloy of gold, copper and other metals. Gold has been used in dentistry for more than 1,000 years due to its durability; however, gold is more costly than amalgam and not natural looking like tooth-colored fillings.
The dentist begins the procedure by preparing the tooth and necessary surrounding areas in order to restore the decay or damage. The decay or damage is removed with a dental hand-piece (aka drill) or laser, and the area is cleansed to remove bacteria or debris before the restoration is completed.
The first step in performing a composite filling procedure involves isolation of the tooth using a rubber dam. Tooth isolation is critical in a composite restoration because it prevents moisture from interfering with the bonding process. This requires the placement of various adhesives followed by the composite material, which is then hardened with a special bonding light. The completed composite restoration is both functional and natural looking.
Causes of Tooth Pain After Fillings
Fillings are used to replace the decayed area of a tooth, reducing the pain associated with the cavity itself. But tooth pain after filling a tooth is not unusual. Some common reasons for tooth pain after a filling include:
- Tooth sensitivity: A tooth that has just had a filling placed will be more sensitive to hot foodsand cold foods, air temperature, and the pressure of biting. This type of tooth pain after filling a cavity should resolve within a few weeks. If not, contact your dentist.
- Cracked or loose tooth fillings: Tooth pain after filling a cavity can occur if the filling is not fitting properly to the tooth, or if it develops cracks. If you suspect that your tooth pain is caused by a cracked or ill-fitting filling, contact your dentist.
- Allergic reaction to tooth fillings: Some people have allergic reactions to the material used for their fillings, such as silver. To help avoid tooth pain after filling a cavity, be sure to tell your dentist about any allergies when discussing your filling choices.
Sore Teeth After Filling
Whether you suffer from short-term sore teeth after receiving a filling or long-term sensitive teeth, it is important to follow a complete oral care routine. The Crest Pro-Health Sensitive Shield collection of products can help keep sore teeth clean and healthy, with a toothpaste designed to protect your sensitive teeth.
- Gentle Brushing
- Soft Flossing
- Sensitivity Protection
Cavity Filling Aftercare
Obviously, you should keep up good oral hygiene after getting a cavity filled. This means brushing twice a day, flossing, and visiting your dentist about twice a year.
Discomfort in the following days in normal, but if your tooth continues to be sensitive, if you feel a sharp edge to the tooth, if there’s a visible crack in the filling, or if part of the filling is missing, call your dentist.
As far as your diet, you’ll want to avoid hard and sticky foods and candies for at least 24 hours after the procedure as they can crack or dislodge your filling. This is especially true of amalgam fillings.
So How Long Do Fillings Last?
While fillings last a long time, none of the materials used in fillings last forever. Assuming that your surrounding tooth remains healthy and the filling itself is not large, you can expect your filling to last for years, even decades:
- Gold fillingslast the longest, anywhere from 15 to 30 years.
- Silver amalgam fillingscan last from 10 to 15 years before they need to be replaced.
- Composite resin fillingsdon’t last as long. You may need to replace them every five to seven years.
Remember that these are average life expectancies. You can extend the life of your fillings by practicing healthy oral hygiene and taking good care of your teeth.
Why You Need to Replace a Filling
The size of your fillings matters. Small fillings mean that more of your tooth is healthy. A small filling, regardless of the material used to fill it, will last longer than big fillings. With big fillings, not only is less of your tooth left, but also the size of the filling itself can lead to problems down the road, such as:
- Your filling falls out.This development is pretty straightforward. Unless you accidentally swallow the filling, you have hard proof that something’s wrong. Your exposed nerve also alerts you.
- Your filling cracks.Any filling except a gold one can crack over time. If a filling has cracked, you may not notice anything wrong right away, or you may feel temperature sensitivity. Your dentist may find the crack during your regular cleaning. Cracked fillings can be repaired.
- Your filling leaks.Again, any filling but gold can leak, most often immediately after being put in place. If your tooth is sensitive to cold or hot food and drink for longer than three weeks, schedule a follow-up with your dentist.
- Your filling wears out.It happens to most fillings, even gold ones. You may never notice anything, but a top Asheville dentist can tell upon examination whether your fillings are still functioning or need to be replaced.
How Much Does Treatment Cost?
Composite fillings are usually more expensive than traditional amalgam fillings because they require a more sophisticated process, more expensive materials and additional office equipment. Composite materials offer an aesthetic alternative to traditional amalgam materials. As such, people who have previously received amalgam fillings often return to their dentist to have them replaced with composite.
The cost of dental fillings depends on a variety of factors, including:
- The dentist who performs the procedure.
- The location where it is performed.
- The number of tooth surfaces that need filling. For example, one tooth may have only one surface affected by decay or damage, while another tooth may have one or more surfaces affected by decay or damage.
Cavity Filling FAQ
Just to be sure you’re as prepared as possible for getting a cavity filling, here are some commonly asked questions and answers.
Can you get a cavity filled while pregnant?
Yes, depending on the type of anesthesia the dentist uses. If it’s a local anesthetic like Lidocaine (which it usually is), it is safe to receive while pregnant. The FDA classifies it as a category B drug, meaning it’s safe for both you and the baby.
However, if it’s IV sedation or general anesthesia, it may not be safe. It’s best to take your dentist’s advice.
Can a baby get a cavity filling?
Yes, definitely. Baby teeth actually stay in a child’s mouth for 12 to 13 years, and if you don’t fill cavities that form, the teeth can become infected. This will only lead to more tooth decay.
Do small cavities need to be filled?
Sometimes. If it’s small enough, you may not need to get it filled. If you catch the tooth decay (i.e. cavity) early enough, you may be able to treat it without a filling. However, you should see your dentist so they can examine it.
How many cavities can you have filled at once?
As many as you need and as many as your dentist is willing to place. It really depends on how long you can be at the dentist, how long can you have your mouth open without becoming uncomfortable, and how much anesthesia can you receive in a short amount of time. These are factors you can discuss with your dentist beforehand.
What is the difference between root canal and cavity filling?
A root canal cleans out the bacteria and any damaged tissue in order to make the area less painful and to help save the tooth. A cavity filling brings back the functionality and appearance of the tooth.
Basically, a root canal is like a filling but for the inside of the tooth, deep in the roots, where the nerve and blood supply is. A “regular” filling is to address decay on the top part of the tooth.