A dental filling is a type of restorative dental treatment used to repair minimal tooth fractures, tooth decay or otherwise damaged surfaces of the teeth. When you come for a dental exam, one of our dentists checks your fillings and may suggest that you replace any loose or broken ones. The dentist also looks for signs of decay, like brown or black spots and may want to use x-ray to take a closer look at problem spots. If you have a cavity, the dentist may keep an eye on it (if it’s small) or fill it right away. If a large cavity is not filled, it can get bigger and cause pain. In some cases, depending on the extent of tooth decay or damage, the affected tooth may require additional or alternative procedures, including crowns, root canal therapy or implants and bridges if the damage is irreparable and the tooth requires extraction.
If you have a cavity and it needs a filling, there are different types of fillings available. Here in Westport Dental Centre we care about you and your oral health. If you have any questions or concerns about fillings, talk to one of our dentists. He or she will advise you on the type of filling that works best in your particular case and inform you about aesthetic and cost implications for each type. There are several different types of fillings that can be used to fill a cavity depending on your medical history, location of the cavity, aesthetic needs, biting force, durability, cost, number of visits necessary and your preference. Depending on what your best option is, the dentist may be able to complete your filling immediately or schedule more visits. To fill a cavity, the dentist may first give you “freezing” (or local anaesthetic), so you do not feel any pain. The dentist then uses a dental hand-piece to take out all traces of decay, shapes the cavity and fills it.
Most fillings are done in two ways:
1. Direct filling – these fillings go right into the cavity, after the dentist has cleaned out the decay. Amalgam (or silver or black) fillings and composite (or white) fillings are examples of direct fillings. They harden quickly and most of the time it’s possible to have a direct filling put in place in one appointment.
2. Indirect filling – examples of this type of filling are inlays/onlays and crowns (or caps). They are custom made in a laboratory to fit your tooth and the dentist cements the filling in place. Most indirect fillings take two or more appointments to complete.
Dental amalgam fillings are sometimes called “silver” fillings. Because they are silver in colour, they are used to fill back teeth. They are a mix of metals such as mercury, silver, copper and tin. These fillings are the least expensive type of filling, they last a long time and are relatively easy to put in place. In most cases one visit to one of our dentists will be sufficient. However, the silver colour may not appeal to people who want a “natural” look and we must remember that tiny amounts of mercury are released from the filling when you chew. Mercury toxicity from amalgam fillings is a controversial subject but no studies to date have been able to show any risks of having mercury as a component of amalgam dental fillings. However, many patients do have metal sensitivities and some have reported a metal taste after the placement of amalgam fillings.
Composite, or so called “white” fillings, have a more pleasing and natural tooth-like appearance as well as the advantage of not containing mercury or other metals that may contribute to sensitivity or toxicity. Composite fillings used to be less durable than amalgams, however dental manufacturers have made great strides in improving the strength of composite materials, to the effect that they now have the potential to be used in all teeth, including molars. Additionally, composite materials often require less tooth preparation and may not weaken the affected tooth as much as amalgam fillings, which often require more extensive tooth preparation. Typically, this means that less healthy tooth structure has to be removed when placing a composite. More than amalgam fillings, the success of composite fillings depends on the dentist’s technique. Composite filling restoration also requires the use of additional equipment and the procedure itself takes up to 50% more time than the amalgam filling procedure. These factors contribute to the higher cost associated with composite fillings. All dentists in Westport Dental Centre are highly skilled in composite fillings and obtained post-graduate education allowing them to refine their skills in composite restorations.
Once the cavity has been filled you should take steps to prevent decay from forming under or around the filling or in other teeth. Brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing with dental floss or an interdental cleaner once a day is advised. Keep appointments with your dentist and hygienist for regular check-ups and teeth cleanings. Also, since diet and nutrition affect oral health, it will be important to maintain a balanced diet and limit your intake of sugary foods and drinks, and between-meals snacks.