Dental Fillings – Cavities & More

Cavities, a word feared by children and adults alike. Many people are afraid to go to the dentist and find out that they have a cavity due popular misconceptions about cavity fillings. However, cavity fillings are really nothing to be scared of.

That is not to say you should leave a cavity sitting untreated. Cavities can be harmful to the integrity of your teeth and can cause damage if left alone. The reality is, cavity fillings are a fairly quick and painless procedure that can help fix the damage to your teeth caused by a cavity and prevent further decay. Keep reading to learn more about how cavity fillings work and what your options are when it comes to treatment.

How Dental Fillings Work?

A dental filling is used to repair the damage to a tooth caused by a cavity, broken tooth, or teeth-grinding. Fillings can also help treat cosmetic issues that arise in these situations. The procedure involves removing the portion of the tooth that is decayed, cleaning the affected area, then filling the tooth with a specialized substance.

Fillings are important because removing the decay will stop further damage, but will not repair the damage your tooth has already sustained. In order to treat this damage, your dentist will typically use either a composite resin or a silver amalgam as a filling.

The filling is shaped to replicate the portion of your tooth that has been eroded by decay. Once the filling has been set in place it will help reinforce the tooth, protecting it from future decay. The great thing about fillings is they immediately replenish the strength and functionality of your tooth.

How Are Cavities Filled?

When a tooth begins to decay, usually due to poor dental hygiene, a hole can begin to develop in the tooth. This hole is called a cavity. But just how does a dentist fill a cavity?

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For this common dental procedure, your dentist will use a local anesthetic, injected into the area around the decaying tooth or teeth, as a numbing agent. After the affected area has been numbed, your dentist will begin to remove the decay using a specialized dental drill.

Once all of the decay has been taken off, the tooth (or teeth) are ready for the filling. Each filling is molded to fit with the surrounding teeth. There are two types of fillings generally used for cavity fillings: composite resin and amalgam fillings. Your dentist will use a different technique when setting the filling, depending on the type you decide to go with.

The Different Types of Fillings

As we discussed above, modern day dentists primarily prefer using either a composite resin or an amalgam filling when repairing tooth decay caused by a cavity. But what is the difference between these two fillings and the methods used to insert them? Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Composite Resin

If you are looking for a filling that will look natural and not stand out, this is the right one for you. Composite resin fillings are made from a mixture of glass or quartz filler in the form of a paste that offer structure and stability to a cavity. They can last for up to 15 years if maintained with good oral hygiene and are very strong. However, poor oral hygiene habits can shorten the life of a composite resin filling.

To insert a composite resin filling, your dentist uses the composite paste which forms to fill the hole left by the cavity. The process is repeated in layers until the cavity is completely filled. Once each layer is set and formed, a technique, known as “photo-polymerization,” hardens the filling rapidly. Photo-polymerization involves using an ultraviolet light to solidify the composite paste.

However, composite resin fillings are not without their downsides. They are generally more expensive than amalgam fillings and are usually chosen for cosmetic reasons. Composite resins also tend to deteriorate quicker than amalgam fillings.

Amalgam Fillings

When most think of a cavity filling, they are picturing an amalgam filling. Amalgam fillings are metallic-looking and often referred to as a silver filling. These fillings are made of a combination of several different metals including tin, silver, mercury, and copper.

With the aid of a mixing machine, your dentist prepares the amalgam prior to setting it into the cavity. The amalgam is then packed down tightly to prevent any air pockets from forming. Once the amalgam is properly set, your dentist will sculpt it to conform to the rest of the tooth.

From an aesthetic standpoint, an amalgam is not as appealing as a composite resin is. On the other hand, amalgams do have their benefits. Amalgams are usually cheaper than composite resins and typically last longer. On top of that, amalgams are easier to place.

Why Dental Fillings Are So Important?

Getting a cavity filled is crucially important for a host of reasons, the most important being that it helps restore the functionality of a decayed tooth. When tooth decay sets in and begins to rot your teeth, the cavity created is usually tender. A cavity can compromise the integrity of a tooth’s structure, be a breeding ground for infection, and even bare the nerve endings within a tooth.

Your dentist could simply remove the decay from within the cavity, but this could also cause issues to your tooth. The hole left behind could compromise the structural integrity of your tooth. However, filling cavity will help repair the full functionality of your tooth.

Cavity fillings are effective at preventing bacteria or plaque growing inside a treated cavity, also preventing infection from occurring. Another benefit to fillings is the structural support provided. Fillings work to prevent fractures, chips, or inward breaking from happening.

The first step in fighting a cavity is preventing cavities from forming, but it doesn’t have to be a dramatic issue if you get one. The bottom line is that cavity fillings are routine and affordable procedures that should not be put off. If you have any questions about cavity fillings or how to schedule an appointment, please contact us at at 828-253-5878.