What is a Filling?


Cortney Davis , RDH

What is a Filling?

A filling is a way to restore a tooth that has been damaged by decay back to its normal function and shape. Fillings also can be used to treat teeth that are broken, cracked, or been worn down by misuse (such as tooth grinding)

How do I know if I need a filling?

There are many indications you may need a dental filling. They include; a toothache, sharp pain, a rough tooth, a dark spot or hole you can see or feel, food getting stuck in between your teeth, floss getting caught when flossing, or a chipped tooth. Many believe that you have to be in pain to have a dental problem. Sadly, this is often not the case. Dental decay has the inconvenient trait of being almost painless or mildly painless in its early stages. Generally, dental decay becomes painful over time if it hits the nerve. At that point, a filling is not possible, and a more extensive and costly procedure like an extraction or root canal is required.

How will the dentist determine if I need a filling?

There are several different ways a dentist will determine if you need a filling. The first way is to take x-rays of your teeth.  X-rays can show decay developing in the enamel on the sides of the teeth that come together. Secondly, the dentist will observe your teeth. You can’t always see cavities on an x-ray, so your dentist will observe your teeth visually. Your dentist will use an instrument to probe for tooth decay. Teeth that are healthy will be hard and will resist pressure to the instrument. Teeth that are decayed will be softer and will have a stick in the affected area.

What are the types of fillings?

1)    Composite (resin) fillings-Most commonly used today, composites are fillings that are matched to the same color as your teeth and used where a natural appearance is desired.

2)    Amalgam (silver) fillings- Amalgam fillings are made up of a mixture of mercury, silver, tin, and copper. They are durable and resistant to wear. But because of their dark appearance they are usually not used in visible areas. Many people think that amalgam fillings are unsafe and want to replace them. There is no evidence that amalgam fillings can cause a problem and should only be replaced if there is recurring decay or if the tooth is broken or worn down.

3)    Gold fillings- are made to order in a laboratory and then cemented into place. Gold fillings are very durable and may last more than 20 years, but are often the most expensive.

What is the process of a filling?

If it is determined you need a dental filling your dentist will numb the tooth and remove all the decay and clean the area that is affected. The cleaned out area then will be filled with a material described above, typically a composite filling.

So remember,

If you have been told in the past you need fillings or think you may need a filling, please don’t delay! Teeth problems will not miraculously heal and delaying treatment can lead to larger problems, more time in the dental chair, and more expensive treatment.

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