- Created in General and Esthetic Dentistry
If you’ve never had a cavity, congratulations! If you have had any, you are not alone. About 78% of us have had at least one tooth decay by the age of 17, according to a 2000 report by the US Department of Public Health. Fortunately, there is a proven treatment for tooth decay: the dental filling.
Fillings do what their name says: they seal a small hole in the tooth, that is, a cavity caused by cavities. This prevents cavities (an infection caused by bacteria) from spreading further into the tooth and, if left untreated, continuing to the dental pulp (nerve) located inside the root canal. If that happens, you will need a root channel.
Currently, a wide variety of materials are used to fill teeth, but the process is similar in all cases. The first step is a clinical x-ray examination of the tooth to determine the degree of deterioration. The decayed area of the tooth is then removed, usually with a handheld instrument such as a micromotor. Of course, anesthesia is applied to the tooth first, so you won’t feel any discomfort. If you are normally nervous when receiving anesthesia injections, taking an anti-anxiety medication or using nitrous oxide may help you feel more relaxed. After removing the decayed part, a slightly acidic solution is applied to roughen or “etch” the remaining tooth structure; translucent cement is then applied to bond the tooth and the filling material. This technique helps strengthen teeth and prevents leaks.
Types of Fillings
There are two general categories of dental fillings: metal and tooth-colored. Each can offer particular advantages and disadvantages in certain situations.
Amalgam: it is the classic “silver” filling in use for more than a century; dental amalgam is 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 filings are strong and inexpensive, but also quite visible. They also require greater preparation of the tooth (milling) compared to other types of fillings.
Molten Gold: Molten gold, one of the most expensive dental restorative materials, combines gold with other metals to form a very strong and durable filling. It is also highly visible, which can be considered an advantage or a disadvantage.
Composites: Composites, a popular choice for those who don’t want their fillings to be visible, are a mixture of plastic and glass, which bonds to the rest of the tooth. Composite resin fillings are more expensive than amalgam fillings, and last about the same time. Compared to amalgam, placing the composite resin does not require as much milling of the tooth.
Porcelain – These high-tech dental ceramics are firm, natural-looking, and do not stain, as can be the case with composite resins. They are sometimes more expensive than composite resins, requiring the use of a dental laboratory or specialized computer-generated technology. Although it is considered the most aesthetic filling, it can also be brittle due to its high glass content.
Ionomer Glass – Made from acrylic and glass powders, these low-cost, translucent fillings have the benefits of blending very well with natural tooth color and releasing small amounts of fluoride to help prevent cavities. They generally do not last as long as other restorative materials.
What to Expect After a Filling
The numbness caused by the local anesthesia should go away in a couple of hours. Until then, it is best to avoid drinking hot or cold liquids, and avoid eating on the same side of the filling. During the first two weeks after the filling, it is normal to have some sensitivity to hot and cold. If the sensitivity continues after that time, or if you feel any real pain when biting, it may be a sign that your filling needs some adjustment. Continue to brush and floss your teeth as normal every day, and visit the dental office at least twice a year for your regular checkups and cleanings. And remember that tooth decay is an easy disease to prevent; With good oral hygiene and professional care, you can make your most recent cavities your last!