If you have a cavity that needs to be filled, you are not alone. In fact, an estimated 90% or more of adult Americans have tooth decay that requires fillings. You may receive either an amalgam filling or a composite filling to re-fill any cavities in your teeth after your dentist removes existing tooth decay.
How are fillings used?
Tooth decay can cause a number of different problems for your teeth. In addition to simply making your teeth lose their natural whiteness, it can eat through a tooth and eventually reach the nerve. You may not notice a cavity for years, but over time what started as a small cavity can become a very real pain in the tooth. Dental fillings can restore small or medium cavities, but if you let them get too large, you may have to have the whole tooth replaced.
A filling can also be used to restore a chipped tooth. Even though chips are often the result of an accident, they can be more susceptible to tooth decay if they are not filled.
Amalgam or Composite?
Amalgam, or silver, fillings are not as popular as they once were. Amalgam is a more noticeable filling material than composite, and may not withstand the pressures of chewing as well as composite. However, there are still people who opt for amalgam fillings, or for whom amalgam is a more appropriate choice.
Composite fillings, also called white fillings, are made of glass or quartz suspended in resin. Composite is tooth-colored, so it makes the perfect medium for cosmetic dental procedures, and is strong enough to endure chewing without cracking. Like your actual teeth, white fillings can become discolored and stained over time, but they can last for many years with proper care.
Cosmetic composite fillings are ideal for small chips in your teeth. They are often preferred to more expensive alternatives, like crowns or veneers, although they may not last quite as long.
What to Expect at Your Dental AppointmentIt may be helpful to write a list of any questions you may have before you go in for your appointment. After making sure that you are comfortable with the procedure and all your questions are answered, Dr. Na Xu will apply a local anesthetic to your tooth or teeth.
Next, all the tooth decay that is present will have to be removed. This is done with a small drill that basically chips all the tooth decay away. More of the actual tooth must be removed if you are getting an amalgam filling, which is another reason more patients are choosing composite fillings. Your dentist will also get you set up with a saliva ejector (commonly called a spit sucker) to keep your tooth dry throughout the filling process.
Finally, the filling will be bonded to your tooth. The entire procedure should only take about an hour, depending on the severity of the tooth decay, and should not hurt at all. Teeth for cosmetic bonding are prepared in much the same way.
Your teeth should not hurt during or after getting a filling, although they may be more sensitive to heat, cold, or pressure for a few days. If this sensitivity lasts longer than a week, or if your tooth or teeth hurt, call us at Healthy Smiles Family Dental right away to have the tooth examined.