Maintaining healthy oral hygiene on a daily basis and visiting your dentist regularly for cleanings are your best defenses against cavities and other dental health concerns. Sometimes these practices are not enough, and you will need to come into the office for repair. Tooth repair, such as filling a cavity or fixing a crack, is very common and does not take a long time in the dentist’s chair. You can be assured that your teeth will be back in good health as quickly as possible. Ask your dentist about the pros and cons of possible filling materials for your tooth. They can also let you know the best way to care for your filling.
What Are The Different Types Of Dental Fillings?
Dental filling is a synthetic material that is used to restore your missing tooth structure. Dental fillings are durable, resilient, and long-lasting. There are a variety of different types of materials that can be used to fill cavities in the teeth including the following:
Silver Fillings (Amalgam)
Silver fillings, or Amalgam, is a widely used filling material reserved for restoring back teeth. Amalgam is very popular because silver fillings are easy to place, they are water-resistant, and are extremely durable. The downside of silver fillings is that Amalgam contains mercury, which is a known toxin. While there’s no definitive proof that Amalgam fillings cause toxicity, however, many dental office tend to stay away from silver fillings due to its mercury component as well as its poor aesthetic appearance.
White Fillings (Composite And Resin)
White fillings, or composites and resins, have come a long way in the past few decades. The current generation of white fillings are sturdy, durable and aesthetically pleasing. White fillings can be used to restore your front and back teeth with equally great outcome. Additionally, white fillings come in a variety of different shades, which allows your dentist to match your exact tooth color. White fillings give your teeth a natural-looking appearance as they blend in with your tooth to become virtually invisible.
In the old days, gold filings used to be the standard of care. This is because gold is malleable, durable, and can easily be contoured, making gold the perfect tooth filling material. However, gold fillings are rarely used to fix teeth nowadays. The high cost of gold in addition to the availability of more aesthetic alternatives, such as white fillings, has pretty much made gold obsolete as a tooth filling material.
Ceramic fillings are made of porcelain and are a very aesthetically pleasing option that is also very durable. However, ceramic fillings cost more than silver amalgam fillings and can wear the opposing teeth if the porcelain becomes rough.
Glass ionomers (acrylic fillings) often last for less than five years but are a good choice for children if their teeth are changing. They can also release Fluoride and this helps to prevent tooth decay.
Again, your dentist is the best person to help you decide which type of material to use for your dental fillings. If you have additional questions about any of these types of fillings, talk to your dentist today.
When Does My Tooth Need A Filling?
Fillings are one of the most common treatments offered by general dentists. Dental fillings are very versatile and they have many different implications in dentistry. Here’s a look at some dental conditions which can be successfully treated with fillings:
Fixing Dental Cavities
The most common use for dental fillings is to repair tooth cavities. Once a tooth develops a cavity, the cavity bugs never go away by them selves. Dental cavities continue becoming larger and larger until getting they get closer to your tooth nerve. The only way to prevent this from happening is by fixing your cavity with a dental filling. Your dentist will remove the tooth decay which leaves a large hole behind. This hole is now filled with filling material such as white fillings or silver (Amlagam) fillings. Fillings protect your tooth against further damage to avoid the need for root canals, crowns, or even possible tooth loss.
Fixing Teeth With Small Cracks
Dental fillings can also be used to fix small cracks and fractures. Your dentist will remove these fractures and replace the missing tooth structure with a white or silver (Amalgam) filling. Fillings are an excellent choice for repairing smaller cracks or fractures. However, larger cracks and deep fractures usually can’t be fixed with a simple filling. To fix these larger cracks and fractures, you typically require a crown or other more extensive dental restorations.
Cosmetic Dentistry Treatments
Fillings can also be used for certain cosmetic dentistry procedures. For instance, dental bonding and chair-side veneers are fillings that are placed on your front teeth to enhance the appearance of your smile. White fillings are used to fix stains, discolorations, to close small gaps in-between your teeth, and other minor cosmetic defects.
Temporary Filling After A Root Canal
A temporary filling is normally placed after root canal treatment. This type of filling is used to seal the root canal area until a final restoration (usually a crown) can be placed.
Other Implications For Dental Fillings
Dental fillings can be used to repair tooth abrasions, seal dental implant abutments, open your bite during orthodontic treatment, as a temporary crown, buildup underneath your crown, etc. As you can see, fillings are the cornerstone of general dentistry and most dentists couldn’t go a day without doing one or more dental fillings in their practice!
What Steps Are Involved In Filling A Tooth?
First, the dentist will numb the area around the tooth with a local anesthetic. Next, a drill, air abrasion instrument or laser may be used to remove the decayed area. The choice of instrument depends on the individual dentist’s comfort level, training, and investment in the particular piece of equipment as well as location and extent of the decay.
Next, your dentist will probe or test the area during the decay removal process to determine if all the decay has been removed. Once the decay has been removed, your dentist will prepare the space for the filling by cleaning the cavity of bacteria and debris. If the decay is near the root, your dentist may first put in a liner made of glass ionomer, composite resin, or other material to protect the nerve. Generally, after the filling is in, your dentist will finish and polish it.
Several additional steps are required for tooth-colored fillings and are as follows. After your dentist has removed the decay and cleaned the area, the tooth-colored material is applied in layers. Next, a special light that “cures” or hardens each layer is applied. When the multilayering process is completed, your dentist will shape the composite material to the desired result, trim off any excess material and polish the final restoration.
How Long Does It Take To Get A Filling?
In general, a filling takes an hour or less. A simple filling may take as little as 20 minutes. A larger filling or multiple fillings can take longer.
Also, depending on the materials used for the filling, it could take longer, or require a second visit. For instance:
- Composite resin material that’s layered into your tooth takes more time, but it’s completed in one visit.
- Some composite fillings may be made from an impression and require a second visit to bond the filling.
- Gold or porcelain fillings, also called inlays or onlays, usually can’t be done in one sitting. In the first visit, the cavity will be removed and an impression will be made of your tooth, which is sent to a lab to fabricate the filling. In the next visit, the filling is bonded to your tooth.
Replacing an older filling takes about the same amount of time as the original filling or slightly longer if the old filling material has to be drilled out. The cavity and old filling material are cleaned out and new filling material inserted.
How Long Does It Take For A Filling To Set?
How long your filling will take to set depends on the material your dentist uses.
- amalgam fillings set weakly in 1 hour and are at full strength in about 24 hours. With this type of filling, it’s best to avoid eating hard foods until the filling has completely set.
- Composite fillings and glass ionomer fillings are usually light cured. They are set in 1 to 2 millimeter thick layers, taking about 2 to 20 seconds per layer.
- Ceramic fillings set immediately, with the aid of the dentist’s blue wavelength light. “It’s already milled or fired, and the bonding adhesive that holds it in place is cured in seconds.
How Long Does It Take To Heal?
Most fillings heal quickly with no problem. After the anesthetic wears off, your tooth may feel a little sensitive, but this usually goes away in a day or so.
Metal fillings, like amalgam and gold, occasionally have a period of post-op cold sensitivity for a few days or even weeks. “This is less likely but still possible with a bonded composite or glass ionomer filling.”
You can reduce tooth sensitivity by:
- chewing on the other side of your mouth for a couple of days
- brushing and flossing more gently than usual around the filling
- avoiding hot or cold food or drinks
- avoiding acidic foods
- using a desensitizing toothpaste
- taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)
Let your dentist know if your bite feels off, or if you have any long-lasting pain or sensitivity. Your dentist may need to adjust the filling surface to improve your bite.
How Long Do Fillings Last?
How long your filling lasts depends, in part, on your dental hygiene. Diligent dental care can extend the life of your filling and prevent a new cavity from forming on your tooth. The lifetime of a filling can also vary depending on the materials used.
Remember that everyone’s teeth and lifestyle are different, so these timeframes can vary from person to person. In general:
- amalgam fillings last 5 to 25 years
- composite fillings last 5 to 15 years
- gold fillings last 15 to 20 years
How Should I Care For My Teeth With Fillings?
To maintain your fillings, you should follow good oral hygiene practices – visiting your dentist regularly for cleanings, brushing with a fluoride-containing toothpaste, and flossing at least once daily.
If your dentist suspects that a filling might be cracked or is “leaking” he or she will take X-rays to assess the situation.
If your tooth is extremely sensitive, if you feel a sharp edge, if you notice a crack in the filling, or if a piece of the filling is missing, call your dentist for an appointment.
Problems With Dental Fillings
Tooth sensitivity following placement of a filling is fairly common. Usually, the sensitivity resolves on its own within a few weeks. Pain around the fillings can also occur.
If you experience pain when you bite, the filling may be interfering with your bite. You will need to return to your dentist and have the filling reshaped.
If the decay was very deep or close to the pulp of the tooth, you may experience a “toothache-type” pain. This “toothache” response may indicate this tissue is no longer healthy. If this is the case, root canal therapy may be required.