Tooth fillings are a common dental treatment for people of all ages. If you need a filling, you may be wondering what they are, what they do, what the procedure is like, and if it will be painful. In this article, we give you an overview of tooth fillings so you know what to expect.
What Are Tooth Fillings?
A filling is a fairly standard procedure. Dentists use fillings to repair small areas of damage in otherwise healthy teeth. Fillings also repair cavities—holes in the surface of your tooth due to bacteria and acid. If you have a cavity, your dentist may recommend a filling to prevent further damage.
Why You Might Need Tooth Fillings
Dental cavities are areas of damage to the tooth that forms when plaque, a clear film of bacteria, and acids attack the outer layer (enamel) of your teeth. Cavities are common in children, teens, and adults.
You might also get a filling if you have worn out an old filling and need it replaced. Your dentist will recommend either silver amalgam (an alloy of mercury mixed with silver, tin, zinc, and copper), tooth-colored plastic (resin), or porcelain depending on your situation. Gold fillings are also an option but less common.
What Goes Into A Tooth Filling?
Composite resin: This material is made up of a combination of fine glass, plastic, and other ingredients. It’s also called a white filling.
Gold: Gold fillings are durable and can withstand the force of biting. They’re not commonly used because they’re expensive and require multiple dental visits.
Porcelain: These fillings are called inlays or onlays, and they’re custom-made in a laboratory to fit your tooth exactly. Porcelain fillings are also known as indirect fillings. For this type of filling, you’ll have to wait about two weeks for the laboratory to custom-make it for your tooth. Once it’s ready, the dentist will cement it into place during a second appointment to put the filling in your mouth. One advantage of porcelain is that it’s designed to match the color of your natural teeth, so it won’t stand out when you smile or talk.
Silver amalgam: This type of filling is less expensive than porcelain or gold and can be done in one visit because there’s no need for a lab to custom-make it for your tooth first. However, silver amalgams aren’t typically used in visible places such as the front teeth because they don’t match the color of natural teeth. They could make your smile look darker if you use this material in the front teeth.
What to Expect In a Tooth-Filling Procedure
Before your procedure begins, our dentist will give you an overview of the process to let you know what to expect. The dentist will then:
- Numb your mouth so you don’t feel any pain and then use a drill (or laser) to remove all the decayed parts of your tooth.
- Use filling material, such as gold or silver amalgam to refill the empty space.
- Use an instrument that looks like a thick pen to shape and smooth out the filling so it matches your other teeth in appearance.
Are Tooth Fillings Painful?
Your dentist may administer a local anesthetic to the tooth. If this happens, you can expect some discomfort or a stinging sensation when the needle is administered. However, this will fade immediately as the area becomes numb. You should not feel any pain during the procedure.
Afterward, there may be some tenderness in your jaw and gums around the treated tooth. The level of discomfort depends on several factors, such as:
- The size of the filling
- Pain sensitivity
It’s important to brush and floss your teeth regularly (brush twice a day and floss once a day) to protect against cavities. Don’t brush too hard and use a soft-bristled toothbrush.
Fillings Help Heal Cavities and Damaged Enamel
Fillings are just one of the ways that dentists can take care of cavities. Cavities occur when tooth enamel is damaged by tooth decay. While fillings can help fix this damage, the best option is to prevent damage from occurring. To do so, you should brush and floss twice a day and get regular dental checkups, which can help stop problems before they start.
If you do need a filling, don’t worry! Most fillings take one appointment and aren’t painful. Your dentist will numb your mouth with a local anesthetic before the procedure. The dentist then polishes the area around your filling to ensure that it’s comfortable for eating and speaking.
Reach out to Dental Partners of Boston if you have any questions about fillings or need to schedule an appointment. We are pleased to help in any way we can.