Tooth fillings are a common dental procedure used to repair cavities and restore the natural function of the tooth. When tooth decay occurs, it creates a hole, or cavity, in the tooth that must be filled to prevent further damage and restore the tooth’s structural integrity.
In this article, we will discuss what tooth fillings are, the types of fillings available, the process of getting a filling, the benefits of getting a filling, and how to care for your tooth after a filling.
What Are Tooth Fillings?
A tooth filling is a dental procedure that involves the removal of the decayed portion of a tooth and filling the cavity with a material to restore its function and shape. Fillings can be made of different materials, including gold, silver amalgam, composite resin, and porcelain.
The choice of filling material depends on various factors, including the size and location of the cavity, the patient’s oral health, and aesthetic preferences. Dentists also take into account the cost, durability, and longevity of the filling material.
Types of Tooth Fillings
There are several types of tooth fillings available. Here are some of the most common ones:
- Silver Amalgam Fillings: Silver amalgam fillings are made of a mixture of metals, including silver, tin, copper, and mercury. These fillings are durable, long-lasting, and cost-effective, making them a popular choice for molars and back teeth that are not visible when smiling.
However, silver amalgam fillings are not aesthetically pleasing, and some patients may have concerns about the mercury content. Although the American Dental Association (ADA) has stated that silver amalgam fillings are safe, some patients may prefer other materials.
- Composite Resin Fillings: Composite resin fillings are made of a mixture of plastic and glass particles. These fillings are tooth-colored, making them a popular choice for visible teeth. They are also more aesthetically pleasing than silver amalgam fillings.
Composite resin fillings are not as durable as silver amalgam fillings and may need to be replaced sooner. They are also more expensive than silver amalgam fillings.
- Gold Fillings: Gold fillings are made of a mixture of gold and other metals. These fillings are durable and long-lasting, making them a popular choice for molars and back teeth. Gold fillings are also biocompatible, meaning they are less likely to cause allergic reactions or other adverse effects.
However, gold fillings are expensive and require multiple visits to the dentist. They are also not aesthetically pleasing and may not be a suitable choice for visible teeth.
- Porcelain Fillings: Porcelain fillings are made of a type of ceramic material that is durable and tooth-colored. These fillings are more aesthetically pleasing than other materials and are a popular choice for visible teeth.
Porcelain fillings are expensive and may require multiple visits to the dentist. They are also not as durable as gold or silver amalgam fillings and may need to be replaced sooner.
The Filling Procedure
The process of getting a tooth filling involves several steps:
Examination: The dentist will first examine your teeth and take x-rays to determine the extent of the decay and the location of the cavity.
Anesthesia: Once the cavity has been located, the dentist will administer local anesthesia to numb the area around the affected tooth.
Removal of Decay: The dentist will then use a dental drill or laser to remove the decayed portion of the tooth and prepare the cavity for the filling.
Filling Placement: The dentist will then place the filling material into the cavity and shape it to restore the natural function and shape of the tooth.
- Polishing: After the filling has been placed, the dentist will polish the tooth to smooth out any rough edges and ensure a comfortable bite.
The entire process usually takes less than an hour, depending on the size and location of the cavity.
Benefits of Tooth Fillings
Getting a tooth filling can provide several benefits, including:
Preventing further damage: Fillings can prevent further decay and damage to the tooth by filling the cavity and restoring its natural function.
Restoring function: Fillings can restore the natural function of the tooth, allowing you to chew and speak without discomfort or pain.
Improving appearance: Tooth-colored fillings can improve the appearance of your teeth, giving you a more natural and aesthetic smile.
Preventing infection: Cavities can lead to infections if left untreated. Filling the cavity can prevent the spread of infection and preserve the health of the tooth and surrounding tissues.
Caring for Your Tooth After a Filling
After getting a tooth filling, it’s important to take proper care of your tooth to ensure its longevity and prevent further decay. Here are some tips:
Avoid hard and sticky foods: Hard and sticky foods can damage the filling and weaken the tooth. Avoid chewing ice, hard candy, and sticky foods like caramel and taffy.
Practice good oral hygiene: Brush your teeth twice a day and floss at least once a day to remove food particles and plaque that can cause decay. Use a fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash to strengthen your teeth and prevent further decay.
Visit your dentist regularly: Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings to monitor the condition of your teeth and catch any problems early. Your dentist can also check the integrity of your filling and replace it if necessary.
Be mindful of teeth grinding: Grinding or clenching your teeth can damage the filling and weaken the tooth. Consider wearing a mouthguard at night to protect your teeth from grinding.