No matter how well you take care of your teeth or how many times you brush or floss, sometimes you’re bound to develop a cavity. Fillings can also be required if your teeth are damaged due to a crack or if you bite your nails or grind your teeth. In order to preserve the tooth your dentist will remove the decay and fill in the cavity with one of several types of fillings.
Steps to Filling a Tooth
The dentist numbs the area around your tooth with an anesthetic so you don’t experience pain during the procedure. Then he uses a drill or laser to get rid of the decay and then clean out any bacteria. Then he’ll fill the tooth with the appropriate material and shape it to the cavity before he cures or hardens the material with a special laser light. Then he will remove the excess material so the filling is comfortable in your mouth.
Types of Fillings
Composites or Tooth-Colored Fillings
These have become quite common in the world of dentistry because they don’t stand out and match the color of your other teeth. They’re ideal for more visible teeth, like those in the front of your mouth. It is strong material and chemically binds to the tooth, making it ideal for broken, worn or chipped teeth as well as typical cavities. They do have some drawbacks though. They’re not as durable as other types of fillings and generally last around five years, requiring more frequent visits to the dentist for upkeep. In certain locations in your mouth the composite fillings are under more pressure and can chip away. They also tend to be more expensive than other types of fillings and might not be covered by your insurance carrier.
Silver or Amalgam Fillings
Silver fillings are designed to last anywhere from 10 to 15 years, making them much more durable than composites. They’re also stronger and are able to withstand chewing better than other types. Since they’re cheaper, insurance companies are more likely to cover the expense. There are a few drawbacks to silver fillings though. They don’t match the color of your teeth and will stand out more than composites. The amalgam can also cause slight discoloration of the tooth near it with a grayish hue. Your dentist might also have to remove more of your tooth than he would if he used a composite because silver fillings take up more room. The amalgam also expands and contracts more with hot or cold foods, which can cause the tooth itself to develop a crack.
Gold fillings are the most durable of the three most common types, being designed to last at least 15 years, possibly more because they don’t corrode. They’re strong and some individuals prefer the look of gold to silver, but it’s an individual preference and others would prefer to have a composite filling that matches their other teeth. The primary drawback to gold fillings is their cost. They can cost up to 10 times as much as silver fillings. The process is also more extensive and, in some instances, will require more than one visit to the dentist to complete the job.
Indirect fillings are required when there isn’t enough left of the tooth for a traditional filling, but there isn’t enough decay to require a crown. They are very similar to tooth-colored fillings, but they require two visits for placement and need to be specially created in a dental laboratory after an impression of your tooth has been made. They typically last up to 30 years, making them the most durable type of filling.
Your dentist may decide to use a temporary filling under certain circumstances, such as after a root canal, for fillings that require multiple visits or if the nerve in the tooth needs time to relax after it becomes irritated. They can also be used in emergency dental procedures. They are designed to fall out or wear away after about a month.
After you get a filling you’ll want to preserve it for as long as possible. Basic dental care such as brushing your teeth at least twice a day with a toothpaste containing fluoride, flossing after meals and using mouthwash. You’ll also want to make sure you visit the dentist for a cleaning every six months and to ensure that you aren’t experiencing problems with any of your other teeth. If you have reason to believe that your filling might be cracked or damaged in some way, indicated by sensitivity or a missing piece of the filling, schedule an appointment with your dentist to minimize potential damage.