Dental fillings are one of the many dental procedures that can be undertaken in order to restore the structure, function and comfort of a tooth that has been damaged by injury or decay. However, when compared to other restoration procedures, fillings are the simpler, easier and faster restoration solution, because they are only used when the damage to the tooth is minor and most of the natural tooth structure is still intact.
Determining Whether a Filling is Needed
When you visit your dentist every six months for examinations and cleanings, your dentist carefully checks all areas of your mouth, including your gums and every visible surface of your teeth, in order to detect any problems or potential problems. One of the things he is looking for is cavities. As is the case with most health issues, cavities are easier to resolve if caught early on, so your dentist will take special notice of indications that the structure of the tooth is at all compromised. That said, not all cavities are easily detected upon visual examination, which is why your dentist will also recommend regular x-rays. In the x-rays he can look for areas where a tooth’s enamel or structure seems to be weakened and then work to trace the root cause and establish a proposed handling.
When a filling is needed, your dentist may recommend local anesthesia in order to make the procedure more comfortable for you. He must first remove any decayed or damaged tooth material and thoroughly clean the area prior to filling it. There are some instances where the cavity is small, and the clean-out will be brief. In these cases, your dentist may be able to complete the procedure with very little discomfort to you, and you can then decide whether you’d rather forego the local anesthesia. Ultimately, your comfort is of utmost concern and your dentist will advise you when he thinks a local anesthetic is necessary.
Once placed, dental filling material is cured with a special dental light, and then shaped as necessary to contribute to an ideal, healthy bite. There should be minimal discomfort following the placement of a dental filling, if any at all, and the filling itself should feel comfortable and allow you to continue speaking and eating normally and naturally.
Different Fillings for Different Purposes
There are different types of fillings that are used for different purposes, specifically:
- Composite. These fillings are the most common type of filling, and are made of a resin that can be closely matched to the color of your natural teeth so that the fillings are undetectable in the mouth. They are often used where appearance takes precedence over function, since they don’t stand up well to heavy wear (as would occur on the back chewing teeth).
- Amalgam (silver). These fillings are cost-effective and very resistant to wear, which makes them suitable for use on the chewing surfaces of back teeth. That said, they are often recommended only for the back teeth since they are silver in color and therefore readily detectable in the mouth.
- Glass ionomer. These fillings are made of a cream-colored material, so they can work to handle minor damage while remaining undetectable in the mouth. What makes glass ionomer fillings particularly unique is that they form a chemical bond with the natural tooth material and can release fluoride onto the tooth, which helps to strengthen the tooth while also preventing harmful oral bacteria from further damaging the tooth.
There is no type of dental filling that is blessed with infinite life–they all tend to wear out over time. However, by choosing the right type of filling for the right purpose, and by taking good care of your filling through maintaining good oral hygiene habits, one can hope to extend or prolong the life of their filling to the utmost, recommended limits.
Regardless of what type of filling is used to restore a tooth, the bottom line is that it serves a very important purpose. It not only restores the structure and function of the tooth, but it also closes off the space that has been weakened by injury or decay so that harmful oral bacteria cannot penetrate that space and cause further decay and problems.
If you have questions about dental fillings, or what type of dental filling may be best for you, contact Today’s Dental now.