Dental fillings are a restorative treatment procedure used to repair minimal tooth fractures or dental decays. It restores the normal function and shape of the tooth. While using fillings the dentist removes the decay, cleans the affected surface and fills the cleaned cavity with dental fillings. Dental fillings help to close the cavities which prevent bacteria from entering and causing further decay. The materials that can be used for fillings may vary from dentist to dentist and include gold, amalgam (alloy of mercury, tin, silver, copper or even zinc), tooth coloured fillings (composite resins).
When do you need a filling?
Dental Cleanings can help diagnose decay. Your dentist may use a probe or specialized instruments or an x-ray to detect decay. Once diagnosed that a filling is required your dentist may give you options on the types of fillings available. The choice of filling is usually decided based on the location of the cavity, the aesthetic value, biting force, cost, durability or the number of visits required.
Depending on the choice of filling, the dentist numbs the surrounding area using a local anesthetic. In order to ensure comfort you can also opt for sedation dentistry, but you should keep in mind that you will not be able to drive home on your own.
The first step involves using a local anesthetic to numb the area surrounding the decayed tooth. The next step involves the removal of decay or damage using a drill, laser or air abrasion instrument. Depending on the comfort level, experience and expertise of the dentist the tool is selected for removing the decay. After removing the decay, the cavity is cleaned. In case of decay near the root, a liner of glass ionomer or composite resin or other material is applied to protect the nerve. After application of the filing, it is polished.
Types of Fillings
The type of filling material used varies from individual to individual and depends on the cost, the type of material suitable for your mouth such as if you have allergic reactions to certain materials, the location of the cavity and the extent of repair required. Let us have a look at the various types of fillings available
- Gold Fillings: They are made to order in the laboratory. They are well tolerated by the gum tissues and can withstand chewing forces. It does not corrode and may last upto 20 years. However gold fillings are very expensive and require multiple visits. Also most patients prefer tooth coloured fillings to metal ones.
- Amalgam (silver) Fillings: Comparatively inexpensive, they are highly durable and can withstand chewing forces. But due to their dark colour, they are rarely used for the front teeth as they are more noticeable compared to porcelain or tooth coloured fillings.
Composite resins (tooth coloured fillings): Used in places where a natural appearance is required as they can be matched to the colour of your teeth. They provide extra support by actually bonding to the tooth surface. It can also be used to repair chipped or broken teeth. When compared to gold or silver fillings they are less durable and may get stained from tea, coffee or tobacco over a period of time. Also they are not suitable for filling large areas as they may wear off with time.
- Porcelain Fillings: They are made to order in the laboratory and can be matched to the colour of the teeth. They are more resistant to staining but cost as much as gold fillings.
- Glass ionomer: It is used mainly for fillings below the gum line or in children. Made of acrylic and a type of glass material, it releases fluoride that protects the teeth from further decay. However it is less durable compared to composite resins (upto 5 years) and the costs are almost the same as composite resins.
In case a large portion of the tooth is affected then a dental crown or cap is preferred option. In case the decay has affected the root, then root canal therapy (involves removal of damaged nerve) or pulp capping procedure(involves keeping the nerve alive) is recommended.
Recovery and Aftercare
After dental fillings are done, your dentist may discuss steps in order to take care of your fillings.
Brushing twice a day and flossing atleast once a day is recommended. Regular checkups and tooth cleaning sessions are advised to prevent decay from forming around the filling. Eating a balanced diet by limiting intake of sugary foods or drinks and limiting between meal snacks go a long way in preventing caries.
To know more about fillings and the right option for you talk to our dentist.