Fillings are a common method of tooth repair used to restore a tooth which has been damaged or broken to its full functionality. They are also used in cases of decay after we have removed the decayed portion of the tooth.
Types of Fillings
In years past, fillings were primarily made with an amalgam (mixture) of metals; silver being the most commonly used metal. While these fillings were functional and – if properly cared for – could last a lifetime, they stood out quite clearly from the tooth: being made of metal, they were obvious at best and downright unsightly at worst.
Today fillings are often made of a composite material that mimics the feel and appearance of your teeth. The composite material is made by combining tiny glass or quartz particles with a resin base to make a substance that is both durable and natural-looking in appearance. Properly installed, composite fillings are virtually indistinguishable from your natural teeth in both appearance and function. Composite fillings can be used in a smaller hole than those required for amalgam fillings, meaning that if we are using a composite material he or she will not need to drill as large of a hole in your tooth.
A composite filling is attached to the tooth with a bonding material. The procedure requires that the tooth be kept dry while it is being filled. Although, a composite filling is natural-colored, it can become stained or discolored with use, depending on its location and the types of food you eat.
Reasons to Get a Filling
A filling is used to repair a tooth when the majority of the tooth is still structurally sound and present. Unlike complete tooth repair procedures such as installing an implant, a filling can be installed as part of an existing tooth.
The most common reason for getting a filling is as part of the treatment for a cavity. When we find a cavity he or she will first use a dental drill to remove the decayed area. Following this, he or she will fill the drilled out area with the composite or amalgam material and shape it to fit the original shape of your tooth.
Another reason for getting a filling is to repair a damaged or chipped front tooth. Of course, these types of fillings are almost always performed with the tooth-colored composite material. Although, they are cheaper than veneers or crowns they will not have the durability of these more costly alternatives. Nevertheless, depending on where they are located in your mouth and the amount of stress they are placed under when you bite or chew, with proper care they should last for decades.
Process of Getting a Filling
If you think you need a filling the first thing you will need to do is have us examine your tooth. If during the course of the investigation – or, as is more common, during the course of your semi-annual cleaning – we discover decay or damage to the tooth, we will have you return at a later date to have a filling put in.
We will first remove any decayed or damaged tooth material to ensure that the filling bonds to a healthy, structurally sound portion of your tooth. Then we will fill in the area with the filling material you have decided to use. Depending on the material, a special light may be used to harden the filling and ensure it adheres to the tooth.
You should be able to resume normal use as soon as the anesthetic wears off, usually within a few hours. If you have a tooth filled and it continues to cause discomfort after a week or so, be sure to follow up with us at (503) 350-1234.