Dental fillings are generally used to fill one or more holes caused by decay or cavities in the teeth. A dentist can also apply fillings to fix any damage caused by teeth grinding (bruxism) or to restore parts of a broken tooth. The process of getting dental fillings is simple and can be completed in one dental appointment.
What to expect when getting dental fillings
The dental appointment for getting fillings typically lasts about an hour. During this time, the dentist will take x-rays if necessary, discuss the details of the procedure with the patient, and complete the dental restoration. Before starting the process, the dentist will numb the teeth, gums and surrounding tissues to reduce pain during the procedure.
With a dental drill, the dentist will drill out the decay from the affected tooth, and clean the hole thoroughly to remove all traces of decay. After preparing the hole, a dental filling material will be placed inside the hole, shaped and hardened. The entire process takes only a few minutes.
After filling the cavity, the mouth will still be numb for some hours. Filling cavities is safe and has no significant risks or side effects, but it would be helpful to keep the dentist’s contact handy, just in case of any questions after the procedure.
Types of dental fillings
Different varieties of tooth fillings exist, each with its advantages and disadvantages. They vary in strength and appearance and include gold, amalgam, tooth-colored composite, porcelain and glass ionomer. The choice depends on the patient’s preferences, the location of the tooth and the cost.
For decades, dental professionals have used amalgam to fill dental cavities. It is durable and suitable for filling tooth decay at the posterior end of the mouth, such as the molars, which are used for chewing. Amalgam is made from a mixture of multiple metallic elements and is therefore conspicuous when laughing or smiling. Amalgam fillings are one of the cheapest fillings available.
Also called filled resins, these fillings are combined with glass or quartz filler and are customizable to match the color of the teeth. Composite fillings are somewhat durable and are suitable for small to medium restorations on teeth used for minor chewing action, such as the front teeth.
Gold fillings can cost up to 10 times the price of silver amalgam fillings and are less appealing in appearance. However, patients often opt for them because of their durability. Gold fillings can last up 10 to 15 years before a replacement is necessary.
Ceramic fillings are created from porcelain and can be customized to match the tooth color. It is less susceptible to staining than a composite filling. Ceramic fillings can be as expensive as gold fillings and are usually used for the front teeth.
This filling is created from a mix of acrylic and glass and releases fluoride that fortifies the teeth. Glass ionomer is however less durable than other types of fillings and may need to be replaced often.
After getting dental fillings, patients may experience a bit of pain and sensitivity, but that will subside quickly. With proper oral hygiene, dental fillings should last for several years before needing replacement.
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