Dental fillings are used to treat small holes or cavities in a tooth. There are many frequently asked questions about fillings. Approximately 92 percent of adults between the ages of 20 and 64 have had dental caries in their permanent teeth, according to a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Fillings are used to restore teeth that have been damaged by decay to regain their original shape and function.
Fillings are one of the most common procedures performed by dentists. In general, a filling takes less than an hour to perform and lasts an average of 10 to 15 years. Dental fillings can be made from a variety of materials, such as gold, amalgam (silver), composite, or porcelain. The location of the cavity, your budget, and similar factors will determine what type of filling is best for you.
The Dental Fillings Procedure
A dental filling is a common in-office procedure performed on both children and adults. The basic steps of a standard dental filling are as follows:
- Anesthetic – Your dentist will begin by numbing the around the affected tooth. Children or individuals with severe dental anxiety may require an additional type of sedation, such as nitrous oxide or “laughing gas.”
- Drilling – Next, the dentist will drill into the tooth and remove the decayed portion using a drill or another specialized tool. The dentist will use special care to ensure that all decay has been removed to prevent reinfection.
- Filling – Once all the decay has been removed from the tooth, the empty space is filled with a special filling material. The most common filling materials are amalgam and composite but some patients may request gold or porcelain fillings.
- Adjustments – The final steps of the filling procedure involve adjusting the filling to achieve a comfortable fit. Your dentist may ask you to bite down on a special piece of paper to help grind down any extra filling material. The tooth is then polished for a proper finish.
Benefits of Dental Fillings
Getting a tooth filled can seem like a scary procedure but in reality, it’s simple and virtually pain-free. Dental fillings can also be very beneficial, especially if you have tooth decay that requires removal. When you get a filling, you essentially stop a cavity from growing and spreading any further. The nerve endings in the tooth are protected and you are less likely to experience problems in the future.
Fillings can also help improve the structure of the tooth. Instead of leaving a tooth filled with decay or hallowed out once the cavity is removed, the filling helps restore the tooth’s solid structure and provides the support it needs to chew effectively. Dental fillings can also be useful for strengthening fractured teeth that have been damaged due to oral damage, such as a car accident or sports injury. Teeth can also suffer fractures when chewing on hard items, such as hard candies or ice.
Despite common misconceptions, a dental filling will not always affect the appearance of your smile. Modern dentistry allows dentists to fill teeth with white composite fillings that look similar to your natural teeth. When performed by an experienced dentist, no one will know that you have received a filling. Composite fillings are also mercury-free and long-lasting.
Good Candidates for Dental Fillings
You may be a good candidate for a dental filling if you have been diagnosed with tooth decay, a cavity, or similar issues requiring treatment. A dental filling is the preferred option over an extraction whenever possible. Fillings allow patients to retain their natural teeth for as long as possible. There are certain circumstances in which a filling may not be possible, such as when a tooth is severely infected.
Tooth decay is a common dental problem that frequently arises due to poor dental hygiene or a diet high in sugar. Dental fillings can provide patients with an affordable and effective solution to cavities. To learn more about dental fillings or to schedule an exam or dental teeth cleaning, contact Artistic Touch Dentistry.