To treat a cavity your dentist will remove the decayed portion of the tooth and then ‘fill’ the tooth where the decayed material was removed. Dental fillings are also used to repair cracked or broken teeth that have been eroded over time by teeth grinding.
Tooth fillings act to close off spaces (cavities) where harmful bacteria can enter, and prevent further decay that often leads to costlier root canal treatments.
Types of tooth fillings
Gold fillings are well tolerated by gum tissues and will often last over 25 years. Many experts consider gold inlays to be the best material for tooth fillings. However, gold is the most expensive tooth filling material and will require several visits before the the treatment is completed.
Amalgam (silver) fillings are a popular choice among our dental patients. Not only are they resistant to wear and tear, they are relatively inexpensive. However, due to the dark nature of the filling material they often stand out more than other composite or porcelain fillings. As a result, amalgam fillings are usually used for fillings away from the front (noticeable) areas of the mouth.
Composite Fillings are matched to the color of the surrounding teeth giving you a more natural aesthetic. Ingredients are placed directly into the cavity where they quickly harden. Typically, these composite (plastic) resin fillings are not recommended for larger fillings as the material isn’t as durable as a gold or amalgam filling and are more susceptible to wear and tear. They are also prone to staining from coffee and tobacco usage. These fillings will usually last 5-10 years.
Porcelain fillings are bonded directly to the tooth. The advantage of porcelain crowns is that they can be matched to the color of the surrounding teeth, and are resistant to staining. The material is also very durable, similar to that of gold and amalgam fillings. The cost is similar to a gold filling.
The tooth filling procedure
Your dentist will first use a local anesthetic to numb the area. Next, the tooth will be examined and the decayed tooth structure removed. Once the decay has been removed, the dentist will prepare the space for the filling by cleaning the cavity of bacteria and debris. If your dentist notices that the decay is close to the tooth’s root, they will place a liner into the cavity (usually made of composite resin) that will seal and protect the nerve. After the filling is put in place, the tooth will be cleaned and polished.
If you decide to get a tooth-colored composite or porcelain filling, there are some additional steps to complete the cavity filling. After the initial tooth decay is removed and the area cleaned, your dentist will need to apply the filling material in layers. An ultraviolet light will then be used to harden the material as each layer is applied. After each layer is hardened, your dentist will place the composite material over the crown of the tooth and trim away excess material. As with the normal procedure, your dentist will then complete the treatment with a final clean and polish to make sure the tooth provides the desired aesthetic and level of comfort.
Fillings that use bonded composite resins will typically last over 10 years. They are a safe, attractive and affordable solution for a number of dental problems.
How do I know if I need a filling?
Your dentist will examine the extent of the tooth decay and recommend whether or not you need to get a tooth filling. A small mirror will be used to inspect the area of decay. A dental x-ray may also me taken to get a more accurate assessment of the level of decay.
Chipped or Broken Tooth Fillings
The enamel that coats the outer surface of your teeth is the hardest tissue in the human body. However, it has weaknesses. Getting a strong blow to the face or biting down on something hard can cause a chipped or broken tooth, especially if the tooth already has decay. There are a number of quick and simple procedures for chipped or broken teeth. One of the most effective treatments is a dental filling or bonding.
If you have chipped off a small piece of the tooth enamel, your dentist will be able to quickly fix the tooth with a filling. As mentioned above, if the chipped or broken tooth is one of your front teeth, your dentist will opt to bond the filling using a composite resin to ensure the filling maintains the same color and aesthetic of the surrounding teeth. Bonding is simple, and rarely requires any form of numbing agent. After shaping and bonding the resin to the tooth, your dentist will use an ultraviolet light to harden the material. Finally, excess resin will be removed and the tooth polished.
If a large piece of tooth has broken away, or been lost to decay, your dentist will likely elect to file away the decayed tooth place a crown over the damaged tooth.
If you believe you may have a cavity that needs to be filled, or have recently chipped or broken a tooth, consult with one of our dentists today!