Getting a dental filling should not be ignored. Making an appointment to see your dentist isn’t usually at the top of anyone’s to-do-list. Whether it is because you feel that you don’t have enough time, or because you haven’t been in a while and are a little apprehensive as to what dental problems the dentist may find, you are not alone. The excuses for not getting a dental exam seem to prevent many people from actually making an appointment. It’s well known that maintaining proper oral hygiene and having regular dental checkups should be a priority.
If you have a cavity and have been avoiding picking up the phone to call your dentist, you should know that time really is of the essence. Below you will find more information about dental fillings and the steps involved in filling a tooth, as well as a brief explanation as for why it is so important to see your dentist right away if you are experiencing signs of tooth decay.
What exactly is a dental filling and who might need one?
A dental filling is used when a portion of your tooth has decayed or when a tooth has been cracked or worn down, either by use or conditions such as bruxism. Dental fillings are a very common dental procedure, whereby the decayed part of the tooth is removed and replaced with your choice of a number of materials. Typically the treatment can be performed in just one short office visit. If your dentist finds that it may take more than one visit to remedy the dental problem, they will most likely decide to put a temporary filling into place.
In the past, dental fillings were made from silver, gold, or a special metal amalgam that combined different materials. While these materials worked well, they often left an embarrassing dark or discolored spot on the tooth that could be visible when you opened your mouth to talk. Today, many dentists have chosen to switch to using a special composite resin that can be matched to the shade of your natural tooth, leaving your fillings virtually invisible. In fact, many patients are choosing to have their old metal and amalgam fillings removed or replaced with this new material.
Temporary Dental Fillings
In some cases, your dentist may need to place a temporary filling. This can happen if your dental filling will require more than one appointment. These dental fillings will generally wear out or fall out within a month, so it is important that you have them replaced with a permanent one as soon as possible. Reasons you may need a temporary filling include:
- Emergency dental treatment (for a toothache or a filling that cannot be treated right away for any reason)
- Following a root canal
- To allow time for a tooth nerve to recover if it has become irritated
- Fillings that require more than one appointment (gold fillings, and indirect fillings such as porcelain inlays or onlays that must be created in a laboratory).
What is involved in filling a tooth?
Your dentist will carefully examine your teeth before beginning the dental filling process, in order to make sure that no other teeth are in need of repair. Next, he or she will use a local anesthetic to numb the tooth and the surrounding area. They will then use dental instruments such as a drill, laser, or air abrasion instrument to remove any of the decayed matter within the tooth, before examining the area once more to ensure that all of the bacteria and dead tooth matter has been removed. If your cavity is near the tooth root, your dentist may choose to place a liner made of composite resin, glass ionomer, or other material in place to protect the nerve. This will help to prevent you from feeling any pain due to the filling. Once this is done, your dentist will then be able to fill the cavity with the material which they think is best and will polish it to make sure any rough edges have been removed safely.
If you have chosen to have a tooth-colored resin used for your dental filling, it will need to be applied in layers. A special ultraviolet light or laser will be used to harden each layer before the next one is applied. Once this process is complete, your dentist will shape the composite into the correct shape and trim off any excess resin. The dental filling will then be polished so that it closely matches the look of your natural tooth.
How do I care for my dental fillings?
In order to ensure that your dental fillings do not come loose prematurely, it’s best to visit your dentist regularly and maintain proper oral hygiene at home. Be sure to floss daily and use toothpaste that has a fluoride additive to avoid developing any further cavities and to prevent the compromised tooth from developing a cavity again. Should you find that your filling has cracked or has become loose, it’s best to schedule an appointment right away so that you can prevent further tooth decay.