Cavities are tiny holes that form on teeth due to decay. A dental filling is the standard way to address cavities. Silver amalgam fillings were the norm for decades, but composite resin fillings have emerged as one of the most popular types of dental filling.
Tooth decay is caused by acids made by bacteria in the mouth eating into tooth structures. These acids are the byproduct of bacteria consuming the sugars in food particles left on teeth. The decay starts with a de-mineralization stage that can be reversed with fluoride treatments. If left untreated, it progresses into small holes forming on tooth surfaces. These holes will continuously expand over time until they cause severe damage.
Using a dental filling to address tooth decay
Detecting tooth decay in its early stages is quite challenging since it typically does not cause any symptoms. Dentists often notice the first stage of decay while performing routine checkups. Symptoms start to emerge once the decay starts damaging teeth structures. Some of the more common symptoms of tooth decay include:
- Increased tooth sensitivity
- Bad breath
Dental fillings are often the first treatment recommended for patients with cavities. Fillings seal up the hole created by decay, preventing bacteria and the acids they make from getting into the area. Fillings are an effective way to stop a cavity from expanding or causing pain.
The dental filling process
A local anesthetic is typically administered when treating cavities with a dental filling. This numbs the affected tooth as the dentist removes decayed material from the tooth. The area is then cleaned and dried before applying the filling material.
Fillings have a putty-like texture, allowing dentists to mold them as needed. They typically harden when exposed to air or saliva. Composite resin fillings need to be hardened with ultraviolet light.
Some of the benefits of restoring a tooth with filling include:
- Fillings stop cavities from expanding
- Fillings bring an end to any pain or sensitivity being caused by the cavity
- Fillings reduce the risk of the tooth becoming infected
- Fillings do not require any special care, so patients can continue with their regular oral care routine
- Composite resin fillings can be color-matched with the rest of a patient’s teeth
- Fillings are one of the more affordable treatments provided by dentists
How to prevent cavities
Most people will deal with cavities at some point in their lives. You can reduce your risk of developing cavities by prioritizing oral hygiene. Good oral hygiene involves brushing the teeth at least twice a day. One of those brushing sessions should be right before going to bed. Flossing daily should also be part of your oral hygiene regimen. A fluoride-infused mouthwash can be used for an extra layer of protection. Most importantly, regular visits to a dentist allow for early detection of tooth decay while it might still be easily treated.
Frequently asked questions about dental fillings
Let us go over the answers to some questions you might have about dental fillings:
1. How long does it take to restore a decayed tooth with dental fillings?
It normally takes about 45 minutes to restore a tooth with a dental filling if the material is being applied directly. The patient leaves the clinic with their tooth restored. However, fillings are sometimes applied indirectly, typically when treating severely decayed teeth.
Indirect fillings are made from an impression of the patient’s teeth in a lab. It takes about two weeks for the customized filling to get back to the dentist so it can be bonded to the tooth being treated. That means patients who get indirect fillings have to come to the clinic twice.
2. What are the different materials fillings are made from?
Silver amalgam fillings have historically been the most common type of fillings. They are made from a mixture of substances like mercury, silver, and other metals. Composite resin fillings have emerged as a better alternative since they can be color-matched with the rest of the patient’s teeth. Other materials like gold alloys and ceramics can also be used to fill up decaying teeth.
3. Can fillings damage teeth?
It depends. Silver amalgam fillings can damage teeth since they constantly expand and contract depending on the temperature in the mouth. This can cause cracks and fractures in teeth. However, other types of fillings like composite resin do not expand and contract as silver amalgam fillings do.
Think you might have a cavity?
If you are dealing with a potential or confirmed cavity, contact our Bellevue dental clinic to set up an appointment.
Check out what others are saying about our dental services on Yelp: Composite Fillings in Bellevue, WA.
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