There are numerous different types of dental treatment that you might need during your lifetime, and we can provide practically all of them at Glow Dental’s Auckland dental clinic. But while some of these are quite specialised, the modest tooth filling is familiar to all of us. More than 80 per cent of the population has at least one dental filling, and the average adult has three.
The fact that fillings are so conventional means patients are sometimes a little embarrassed to ask about them, thinking it is something “everyone should know.” So, let’s cut to the chase with everything you ever wanted to know about fillings but were afraid to ask.
A filling is a substance placed in a tooth to restore its strength and function when it has been damaged by decay. Fillings can be made of various materials including amalgam, composite or even gold. We will take a closer look at each in just a moment.
How Fillings Are Made And Fitted
If you need a filling, the dentist will first clean the cavity, ensuring all decayed material is removed to prevent it from spreading further. You won’t feel a thing, as the area will be treated with a local anaesthetic.
With the cavity ready, the dentist will prepare your filling. The exact way this is done depends on the type of filling used, but with amalgam or composite resin, it is applied as a paste, carefully shaped to the tooth and your bite, and then cured with LED light to harden (amalgam self-hardens without the LED light). The process typically takes around 30 to 45 minutes per filling from start to finish, although specialist products like gold or porcelain fillings will take longer.
Previous Reconstruction Filling Work By Glow Dental
Different Types of Fillings Available
Fillings can be made from various materials, but the most common are porcelain fillings, amalgam fillings, composite fillings and gold fillings. There are positives and negatives for each variation, and your dentist will help you decide which is best for your specific circumstances. The following general points will introduce you to each.
- Amalgam fillings have been in use since the early 19th century and are still prevalent today. These are the frequently used silver coloured fillings that tend to darken to almost black over time. The majority of us have had at least one amalgam filling over the years. This type of solution is quick, durable, and inexpensive. The substances used to make the amalgam tend to provide extra protection against decay recurring, too. Yet amalgam is not as popular today as it once was. Its colour makes the filling stand out, so while it is ideal on the back teeth, it is not suitable in visible locations. Amalgam fillings need to be the right size to seat effectively, so if you only have a small cavity, it might need to be drilled out more than with other filling types. Finally, some patients are uncomfortable with the fact that amalgam contains metals like mercury.
- A composite resin filling is also known as a white filling. White fillings are made of a synthetic bonding material that has the added benefit of helping to hold a weak or cracked tooth together and maintain its structural strength. These days, composite fillings have overtaken amalgam as the most popular type. The composite will be colour matched to your teeth, so it is practically impossible to know it is there, making it a popular choice when you need a filling in a highly visible tooth. Composite can be used in the smallest of cavities, so less drilling is required.
- Porcelain fillings are sometimes called inlays. Like composites, they are matched to your tooth colour and once fitted, nobody will notice they are there. They are reliable and durable, making them the optimum choice for those hard-working molars. When porcelain fillings are correctly maintained, it is common for inlays to last for more than 10 years. The only real negatives here are that they cost more than other types of fillings and take longer to make and place, as each is custom made to precisely fit the tooth.
- Gold fillings have been around even longer than amalgam, mentioned in numerous works of literature from the 1800s. They are still both popular and effective in our 21st-century world. As well as giving your smile a unique sense of bling, they are robust, durable and non-corrosive. Of course, gold is more expensive than other types of fillings, and it will need to be created and fitted over the course of two visits. Finally, you need to be aware that gold is a highly effective conductor of both heat and cold, so there is an increased risk of sensitivity.
Common Questions in Relation to Tooth Fillings
The answer to this question depends on the type of filling and how well you look after it. The second factor is even more important than the first, and oral hygiene is vital in ensuring any dental product or procedure has a long-lasting positive effect. In the case of fillings, brushing, flossing, and regular hygienist appointments will all combine to reduce the risk of further tooth decay or damage that might undermine the tooth filling. If your filling is maintained, you can reasonably expect it to last for at least six years. It is not uncommon for amalgam and porcelain fillings to still be giving trouble-free service after 15 years or even more.
Good news, having a filling is an entirely painless process. Any horror stories you might have heard can be firmly left behind in those books from the 1800s! After receiving a local anaesthetic, you will feel a strange vibrating sensation during drilling; there will be no pain. After the filling has been placed in your teeth, you might feel some sensitivity at first, but this generally wears off after 48-72 hours.
Maintaining a good oral hygiene routine will significantly reduce the risk of tooth decay and, therefore, reducing the need to get fillings. Brushing and flossing after meals and paying regular visits to the dentist and hygienist are your best defences. There are no guarantees that you will feel no pain whatsoever, you might still find yourself in need of a filling even if you do everything right.
That is an excellent question. Sometimes there are obvious indications that something is amiss. You might have toothache or sensitivity that has suddenly become noticeable in a particular area. Or perhaps you can feel with your tongue that something is not quite right, or there is something on one tooth that keeps snagging your floss. All these are indications that a cavity might be forming. The trouble is, once you notice signs like these, the decay is likely to be well-advanced. The dentist will be able to spot the first signs long before you know anything about the problem, and the faster you act, the less invasive the procedure. That’s just one more reason it is so important not to neglect those routine check-ups and hygienist appointments!