Dental fillings are needed when a patient has a cavity and the decayed portion of the tooth must be removed. The dentist will then fill the tooth with material to replace the decayed area. Dental fillings may also be used to fix broken teeth, cracked teeth, or teeth that have been negatively affected due to habits such as tooth grinding and nail biting.
There are several types of dental filling material available. The extent and location of decay, patients' insurance coverage (or lack thereof), dentist's suggestion, and cost of the filling material determine what type of filling each patient will receive. Types of filling to choose from include:
• silver amalgam, which has been criticized because it consists of mercury mixed with tin, zinc, silver, and copper (the concern is over mercury in this type of filling)
• resin fillings, which are tooth-colored glass and plastic materials (these fillings are more aesthetically pleasing and require more time to complete).
1. The patient will receive a local anesthetic , to be placed in the area around the tooth to be filled, in order to numb the area. A laser, drill, or air abrasion instrument will be used to get rid of the decayed area.
2. Once the decay has been completely removed, your dentist will clean the cavity of bacteria and debris.
3. In order to protect a nerve that is too close to decay, a dentist will put a liner made of composite resin or glass ionomer to protect thenerve.
4. Once the filling is in, the dentist will finish and polish it.
If the dentist is using tooth colored fillings, the following additional steps that must be performed:
• A tooth-colored material is applied in layers (after the decay has been removed and the surrounding area cleaned).
• Each layer of tooth-colored material is hardened by a special light.
• Once the layering process is complete, the dentist will then reshape the composite material, get rid of extra material, and polish the filling.
As with other dental procedures, it's important to care for your dental fillings by having good oral hygeine, brushing your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, flossing at least once a day, and visiting your dentist for regular dental cleanings at least twice a year.
It's important to see your dentist regularly to make sure that your fillings are not cracked or leaking. If something is wrong with your fillings, your dentist may take X-rays of the tooth and decide what the best option for you will be.
Most dental plans do cover the cost of dental fillings, so it's worth it to have them placed in your teeth when necessary. Also, before dental fillings are placed, your dentist will remove the decay in your tooth, and then stabilize the tooth by adding a filling, which will help save your tooth and prevent further infection.
Patients may experience tooth sensitivity after receiving a dental filling. Pressure, sweet foods, air, and extreme temperature may cause sensitivity. Since the sensitivity usually disappears after a few weeks, pain relievers are not necessary, but patients should avoid whatever is triggering it.
If the pain persists for more than two to four weeks, visit your dentist to see if your filling was inserted properly or needs adjustment. If it looks good, sometimes a desensitizing toothpaste will work sensitivity.
Dental fillings are usually painless, covered by most insurance plans, and are relatively easy to place in your teeth, so it's a good idea to consult with a dentist as soon as possible if you suspect you need dental fillings.