A healthy smile is a wonderful thing to have, and those that are beautiful inside and out, take work to maintain and achieve. For many people, restorative dentistry has been a smile-saver, stepping in when factors like cavities and wear and tear interfere with oral health and function. One of the most common forms of restoration is a tooth filling. Made from various materials, fillings can be an effective of way of stopping decay in its tracks and get your smile back on the right track.
What Are They Used For?
Like dental crowns, fillings address similar issues of decay and damage, but typically on a minimal scale. They are often used for filling in cavities, but can also be used to repair minor cracks and restore teeth that have been worn down due to actions like nail biting. The extent of decay and damage will determine if a filling is the best suited method of treatment, or whether additional or alternative procedures will be necessary.
What Are Fillings Made Of?
Nowadays, there are several different options available when it comes to dental filling materials. These options include:
Silver (Amalgam): This type of filling offers durability and has the potential to be long-lasting. While less expensive than other options, amalgam fillings are more easily noticed because of their dark color. This is why they are commonly used on back teeth that are not so visible. Additionally, in fairly rare cases, people can be allergic to the amalgam material.
Gold: Cast gold is another type of dental filling that provides strength and durability. However, in terms of cosmetic appeal, patients either love or hate the look. This filling material can also be much more costly than other options.
Composite Resins: Made of a plastic mixture, this form of tooth filling can achieve a more natural looking appearance, as the composite can be closely matched to the color of your teeth. Due to this feature, these fillings are often used on front teeth that are easily seen. They are also capable of adding additional support to a tooth. On the downside, composite resin fillings are not as long-lasting and more susceptible to chips and stains.
Ceramics (porcelain)- Used for inlays/onlays and other procedures, these fillings are also matched to the color of existing teeth, while more resistant to stains than the resin option. However, porcelain fillings can break and their price is comparable to that of cast gold.
Glass ionomer- This material option can be used for fillings in the roots, below the gumline, and the front teeth. Other uses include inlay cement and baby teeth fillings. Glass ionomer can also match to teeth color, but is not extremely long-lasting. However, and it does add the benefit of releasing fluoride, which can assist in preventing decay.
What’s Involved in Filling a Tooth?
After an examination that may involve X-rays and the use of cavity-detecting liquid to locate decay, your dentist will give you anesthesia and then remove the area decay with a drill or a laser. After the affected area or cavity has been cleaned out, the nerve may be protected by a liner made glass ionomer or another material. Lastly, the filling is set into place and polished and finished.
When dealing with tooth-colored fillings, there’s typically a few different steps that can be involved. After clearing out decay and debris, the surface of the tooth’s enamel may be etched to create small holes that will be filled in by bonding and filling materials.Then the filling will be placed.
Another possible method involves applying the tooth-colored filling material in layers, and then hardening it by use of a special light.
What Can I Expect After a Filling?
After a dental filling it’s fairly common to experience a degree of tooth sensitivity, which may be felt when exposed to factors like cold, air or pressure. This typically wears off after a few weeks. However, it’s good to let your dentist know if the sensitivity persists, as it can be indicative of an issue that should be resolved. For example, adding a liner or changing the filling and replacing it with a new one may be necessary.
It’s also important to remember that unfortunately fillings don’t last forever. They can fall out due to actions like biting down too hard. They can also crack, leak, and wear-out. Sometimes repair is all that’s needed, but other times replacing the tooth may be required. All in all, having regular dental checkups and contacting your dentist as soon as possible if problems occur, is the optimal way to maintain your smile and have the best treatment options available.
Repair and Restore a Healthy Smile
It’s true that decay and damage are nothing to smile about. However, they can be even more destructive when they’re left untreated. Fillings are one possible way to restore and repair your smile and in some cases, they can quite literally be a “silver” lining. To make sure they are what your smile needs to get back in gear, contact our Los Angeles office today for an appointment.