Fillings are used to repair damaged teeth that have been affected by decay or trauma. A dental filling can help improve the function of the jaw for chewing and biting, as well as even out the surface of the tooth. Many patients with cavities experience sensitivity due to loss of enamel, which can also be significantly improved with the placement of a filling. If you have never had a filling before, you may be wondering what to expect. Here we’ll look at the different types of fillings and how fillings are placed.
Types of Dental Fillings
A dental filling is a type of restoration used to restore missing tooth structure resulting from external trauma or cavities. There are several main types of dental fillings that range in appearance, price, and durability.
- Composite Resin – A very popular and common filling material used is composite resin. This material is most commonly used on the front teeth as the material can be matched to the patient’s natural tooth color and are quite affordable.
- Ionomers – Ionomers are another type of familiar tooth-colored filling often used to fill cavities that develop between teeth. Some types of ionomers release fluoride which can be beneficial to cavity-prone patients.
- Amalgam – An amalgam filling is a common type of filling that has been used (however, not as popular anymore) to fill cavities for more than 150 years. Also referred to as “silver fillings,” amalgam is a mixture of tin, silver, and mercury which makes it an easy material for dentists to use. It is also the most inexpensive type of dental filling material.
- Gold – One of the more costly filling materials is gold. Gold filling material can be difficult for dentists to work with and the procedure takes longer to complete, resulting in a larger dental bill.
- Ceramic – Another tooth-colored filling option is ceramic. Unlike composite resin and ionomers, a ceramic filling requires the use of specialized tools and is generally less cost-effective than other materials. Due to the complexity of these fillings, it can take several appointments to complete the process.
The Tooth Filling Process
The dental filling procedure involves a series of steps. This process is designed to remove any decay and restore the integrity of the tooth structure. The procedure begins when the dentist administers a local anesthetic. This numbs the area around the tooth to increase the patient’s comfort during treatment.
Next, the damaged or decayed tooth is prepared for the restoration. The dentist uses a laser or hand-piece to carefully remove the damaged areas of the tooth. The area is then cleansed with an acid gel to remove any remaining debris and bacteria that may be lingering. Once the damaged area of the tooth has been removed, a filling can be placed.
The exact technique used to place the filling will ultimately depend on the type of filling material chosen. For example, when a composite filling is placed, the affected tooth must be isolated to eliminate moisture. Moisture can negatively impact the bonding process. Composite fillings are then hardened using a special light. Once the filling has been placed, the finished tooth can be polished.
Follow-Up Tips After a Dental Filling
It is important to remember that a tooth with a dental filling can still experience decay again if proper brushing and flossing habits are not followed. Good oral care practices, such as brushing with fluoride toothpaste twice a day and flossing daily, can help maintain good dental health and wellness. The use of fluoride mouthwashes can also be beneficial to patients with a high-risk of future tooth decay.
Schedule a Dental Appointment Today
A typical dental filling takes about 20 to 30 minutes to complete. However, deeper or more complex cavities may take longer. It is normal to experience some minor discomfort or sensitivity for a day or two following treatment. If you experience any significant pain or notice pus or swelling from the affected area, contact your dentist immediately. This could signal an infection or need for another procedure, like a root canal.