If you’ve been told you have a cavity, you might be wondering what to expect. A filling is actually a very routine dental procedure that almost everyone will need to get at some point in their lives. So let’s talk about the process of getting a filling and what to expect afterwards.

Choosing a Dental Filling

One of the first things we do with patients is to help them choose an appropriate filling. There are two types of fillings available:

  • Silver amalgam is a traditional type of filling made of a mixture of mercury, silver, tin, and copper. It has been used in dentistry for more than 100 years because it lasts a long time. It is often called a “silver-colored” filling because of the way it looks, and it is also the best choice for cavities below the gum line or on the back teeth (where there is a lot of force from chewing).
  • Composite resin is sometimes preferred by patients because it is tooth-colored and therefore almost invisible. These days composite resin is actually used more often than silver amalgam. While it is a wonderful cosmetic choice, it can only be used for small- to medium-sized fillings and insurance policies don’t always cover the cost.

Many people have concerns about the mercury content in silver amalgam fillings. However because the mercury is combined with other metals, it becomes a very stable and safe material that poses no health risk to patients.

Coping with Anxiety

Dental anxiety is a very common affliction that affects approximately 80 percent of Americans. If you are nervous about getting a filling, make sure to ask about sedation dentistry. Some of the options include:

  • Laughing gas (nitrous oxide)
  • Oral sedation (pills)
  • IV sedation (for extremely fearful patients)

You and your dentist can work together to find the most appropriate option for you before your filling appointment.

Getting a Filling

The process of getting a filling is actually very simple. It is done in three steps:

  1. Numb the tooth – the dentist will numb your teeth, gums and surrounding tissues by injecting a local anesthetic.
  2. Remove decay and bacteria – the dentist will remove all decay using a tool like a drill or laser, and then completely clean the area of all bacteria and debris.
  3. Place the filling – the dentist will place the appropriate filling in the tooth and allow it to harden.

Composite resin fillings must be placed in layers and cured with a special light at each step of the layering process, so this type of filling does take a little longer to place. Once the layers are complete, the dentist will also need to trim off any excess material and polish the filling to finish the procedure.

After the Procedure

Once the filling has been placed, the tooth becomes fully functional and should not need further treatment for a long time (unless a second cavity develops). However your lips, gums, cheeks, and tongue may remain numb for a few hours after the procedure. So to prevent injury, make sure to avoid eating during this time and be careful not to accidentally chew on your lip or cheek.

The filled tooth may also be sensitive to heat and cold for a few days or weeks. If this occurs, make sure to talk to your dentist about ways to minimize discomfort. This type of sensitivity is always treatable.

The Life of a Filling

Over time (usually many years or decades) the filling may wear out or crack and need to be replaced. Your dentist will be able to monitor the condition of all of your fillings during your normal cleanings and check-ups, so make sure to keep your six month appointments!

It is worth noting that some studies indicate composite resin may be less durable and may need to be replaced more often than silver amalgam. So keep this in mind when thinking about how long your particular filling will last.

Written by: Dr. Yahya Mansour

Dental Fillings

Dental Fillings for Cavities

Have you been told that you have a cavity? If so, you’ve probably also been told that you need a filling to repair it! A dental filling is a very routine procedure that we perform almost every day at Rodeo Dental & Orthodontics. We place dental fillings for patients of all ages, from toddlers with early childhood caries to grandparents with aging teeth.

Our goal with dental fillings is to:

  • Remove all decay from the tooth
  • Repair any damage that occurred
  • Restore the tooth to full function

Patients are able to eat and speak normally immediately after the procedure, and any pain from the cavity is completely eliminated as soon as the filling is placed.

Dental Fillings for Cavities

Types of Dental Fillings

Fillings are made to last a very long time. In fact, it is not unusual for a filling to last many years or even decades.Patients have two options when it comes to fillings:

  • Silver amalgam is a traditional type of filling made of a mixture of mercury, silver, tin, and copper. It is often called a “silver-colored” filling because of the way it looks, and it is the best choice for cavities below the gum line or on the back teeth (where there is a lot of force from chewing). Silver amalgam fillings are the least expensive option and can be placed very quickly into the tooth.
  • Composite resin is often preferred by patients because it is tooth-colored and almost invisible. These days composite resin is used more often than silver amalgam, frequently because of the cosmetic benefits.However this type of filling costs more than silver amalgam and may not last quite as long. In addition, some dental insurance carriers will not cover the cost of composite resin fillings.

If you’re not sure which type of filling is best for you, your dentist will help you decide. The appropriate filling for your cavity depends on its location, its size, your personal cosmetic preferences, and your level of insurance coverage.

Getting a Dental Filling

Dental fillings are always completed in a single office visit. First the dentist numbs your tooth with a local anesthetic. Then he or she removes all decay using tools like drills and lasers. Once the decay is removed, the tooth is completely cleaned of bacteria and debris to prepare it for the filling.

The final step in your appointment is to place the filling onto the tooth and allow it to harden. This process is different depending on the type of filling you have chosen:

  • Silver amalgam fillings are created by mixing a powdered alloy (a mixture of metals) with liquid mercury to form a putty. The dentist places the putty onto the tooth and shapes it by hand. The new filling then hardens rapidly on its own.
  • Composite resin fillings must be placed in layers and cured with a special light at each step of the layering process. Once the layers are complete, the dentist will need to trim off any excess material and polish the filling.

Your tooth can be used normally immediately following the procedure. You should not need further treatment for a long time unless a cavity develops elsewhere on the tooth.

Do Dental Fillings Hurt?

A dental filling is a very routine procedure performed under a local anesthetic, so it should not cause any pain or discomfort. However, we have a number of options at Rodeo Dental for nervous kids and adults to help with anxiety and make sure your visit is completely pain-free!Be sure to ask us before your appointment about sedation dentistry and pain-free shots with DentalVibe.

Should I Worry About the Mercury in Silver Amalgam Fillings?

Many people have concerns about the mercury content in silver amalgam fillings. However, the mercury in a dental filling is combined with other metals. This creates a very stable, safe material that poses no health risk to patients.

The following organizations agree that scientific data shows silver amalgam fillings to be both safe and effective:

  • The American Dental Association
  • U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • U. S. Food and Drug Administration
  • World Health Organization

In addition, these prominent health organizations have stated that silver amalgam fillings pose no risk to health:

  • Alzheimer’s Association
  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Autism Society of America
  • Mayo Clinic
  • National Multiple Sclerosis Society

If you have additional questions or concerns about the safety of fillings, be sure to talk to your dentist before your appointment.

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