Dental fillings are one of the most common dental restorations used in modern practice today. They are used to repair minor fractures and minimally damaged teeth as well as cavities caused by tooth decay. In many cases, a cavity may not cause pain, but it should still be repaired as soon as possible. If a cavity is left untreated, it can cause an infection to spread throughout the tooth that may lead to an abscess.
Determining the Need for and Planning Your Dental Fillings
In most cases, our dentist will discover the need for a dental filling when you come in for your routine cleaning and checkup. To detect the need for a dental filling, the dentist may use a liquid or a dental probe. A dental x-ray will also be used to determine the size and exact placement of the cavity. Once this is determined, you will be informed of the various materials that are available for fillings. Patients are no longer limited to metal amalgam fillings; today, dental composites can be used to fill the cavity.
Dental composite fillings closely resemble your natural teeth and are both durable and affordable. Most patients prefer this option because the dental composite is tooth-colored. Additionally, when a dental composite filling is placed, it may be possible for the dentist to fill multiple cavities in the same day.
Filling the Tooth
When filling the tooth, the dentist will begin by numbing your mouth with anesthetic. If you are particularly fearful, you may be given the option of sedation dentistry. If you choose this option, you will need to arrange for someone to be able to drive you home. You will also likely need to schedule a separate appointment.
Once your mouth has been numbed, the dentist will prepare the tooth for the filling by removing the damaged and decayed tooth matter. The area will then be rinsed and thoroughly cleaned of debris. This removes any harmful bacteria from the tooth and ensures that the tooth decay will not progress once the filling has been placed.
Finally, the dentist will isolate the tooth to be filled with a rubber dam. This will prevent your saliva or any moisture in your mouth from interfering with the bonding process. A special dental adhesive will be painted onto the tooth, and then the composite material will be placed. At this point, it has a putty-like consistency, allowing the dentist to shape the filling to fit your tooth. Once the desired shape is achieved, an ultraviolet curing light will be used to quickly harden the material. The filling will then be polished to remove any rough edges and to ensure that the filling blends in with the rest of the tooth.
Caring for Your Composite Filling
For the first 48 hours following your restoration procedure, you may be asked to avoid brushing or flossing or at least be advised to brush gently. This will prevent the filling from becoming dislodged. Once this period is over, you will need to resume your ordinary dental hygiene routine of brushing twice per day and flossing once daily. You will also need to continue to return every six months for cleanings and checkups to ensure that the filling remains undamaged.
Occasionally, the dentist may ask that you return more frequently. This is particularly true if you are prone to frequent cavities. In this case, your dentist will place sealants over your teeth to prevent tooth decay and to protect your filling from damage. You will also need to avoid any sugary foods and drinks, and try to avoid snacking between meals as often as possible.
While dental composite fillings are not indestructible when well-cared for, the restoration can last for up to 10 years. However, if you notice any damage to the filling, or if you feel that your filling has begun to come loose, you will need to contact our office right away so the filling can be replaced. Once the filling becomes loose or damaged your tooth is once again vulnerable to further decay and infection.
If you have reason to suspect that you have a cavity, you need to contact our office today to schedule a consultation. We look forward to helping you once again have a healthy, bright smile once more.