Having a cavity may seem like a big deal when your dentist tells you that you have one, but it is easily dealt with. According to the CDC, over 90% of adults have had a cavity at some point in their life. The first step after your dentist says you have a cavity is to understand the severity of the cavity. When cavities are discovered early, they are normally filled. Your dentist will review your filling options with you.
Dental Filling Procedure
When filling your tooth, your dentist will begin by administering a local anesthetic to numb the area around the tooth to reduce or eliminate any pain. Your dentist then removes the decayed area of the tooth, either with either a laser, drill, or air abrasion instrument.
Once the decay has been removed, your dentist prepares your tooth for the filling by thoroughly cleaning it so you won’t have any bacteria, decay, or debris that could cause you future problems. The next step is the actual filling. Some types of fillings require a special light to cure (or harden) the filling. After this is done, your dentist checks your bite for proper alignment and polishes your new filling.
Types of Fillings
There are many materials that dentists use to fill cavities. Here is a list of the most common types of fillings.
Amalgam fillings have been used by dentists for more than a century. They consists of a mixture of metals that make them very durable and long-lasting. Amalgam fillings are also one of the least expensive options for filling. They do have a dark, metallic color, which makes them easily seen, so most dentists and patients prefer a tooth colored filling instead.
Due to the strength of gold, using it for fillings will generally make it last longer than any other option. However, there are some disadvantages. They are the most expensive filling option, due to the color they are highly visible, and there is the potential for a galvanic shock – a phenomenon that creates a temporary sharp pain when placed next to a silver filling or a saliva interaction.
A composite dental filling is made from a mix of powered glass and acrylic resin. Composite tooth fillings have become more popular because they can be colored, allowing it to be matched to your natural tooth color. This makes them very inconspicuous, especially in comparison to their metal alternatives: gold and amalgam. They are not as durable as metal fillings, but they do provide good support to your tooth as they bond to your tooth.
Resin / Glass Ionomer
Resin / glass ionomer fillings are most often used for small areas of decay, such as for children, or below the gum line. They are rather delicate, so they are not typically placed in areas that are subject to chewing or extreme pressure.
If you find yourself with a cavity at your next dental check-up there are many different options when it comes to fillings. You will want to speak with your dentist to decide which type of filling will be best for your individual dental situation.