Tooth decay is a common problem and can cause holes or cavities to develop in teeth. If you have a cavity, it is essential to fill it promptly to prevent further decay and infection. Delaying treatment could result in pain and infection, and tooth loss in the worst case. In comparison, filling a cavity is relatively quick and should be entirely painless.
Sometimes it is possible to see a hole or cavity in a tooth as it can appear as a dark spot or dark area. Tooth decay can cause sensitivity or discomfort in the affected tooth. The sensations can penetrate a decayed tooth more easily, reaching the tooth nerve whenever you eat or drink anything very hot, cold, sweet, or sour.
If you have existing fillings and haven’t seen a dentist regularly, they can leak and crumble as they start to age. You may notice tiny pieces of filling coming loose as you chew food, and the tooth in question could feel increasingly sensitive. If you suspect you are losing a filling, please make an appointment to come and see us as soon as you can.
When you visit our dental practice for your dental exam, we carefully check each tooth’s condition, gently assessing for any weak spots or lesions that could indicate the first signs of tooth decay. Sometimes tooth decay is present in the contact areas between teeth, hidden from the naked eye. When we suspect a tooth has a cavity, we may wish to take a digital dental x-ray that will show us the extent of any decay and its location. You can rest assured that we only take digital dental x-rays when necessary, and they are extremely safe.
We might take a digital image of the cavity using a tiny intraoral camera. The image can be enlarged and displayed on the screen in the treatment room, so you can see what we see and understand how treatment will help more clearly. There may be several ways to fill the cavity, and Dr. Adam Shoukry can discuss how best to treat it, including the best material to use.
Different types of fillings include:
Gold and porcelain fillings are sometimes called inlays or onlays. An inlay restores the central portion of the chewing surface of a back tooth. An onlay restores a larger area, including the chewing surface and one or more tooth cusps.
One question dentists are often asked is whether amalgam fillings are safe.
This office has always been accommodating with regards to scheduling and care. They have been my dentists for quite a while now since I had my first cavity filling and they always approach my care with the utmost professionalism.
Although amalgam fillings have been used for decades, some people have concerns about their mercury content. During their placement and removal, amalgam fillings can release low levels of mercury vapor. While the vapor levels have been deemed safe, many countries, including Europe, are phasing out the use of amalgam fillings, especially as there are newer alternatives that are metal-free. Additionally, amalgam fillings may not be advisable for pregnant women, children aged below six, and anyone who has a known allergy to amalgam.
Unlike amalgam, composite is entirely metal-free and is a biomimetic material meaning it works more harmoniously with your body. It closely mimics natural tooth structure, bonding strongly with and doesn’t flex when under pressure or exposed to hot and cold. Amalgam can flex slightly when you chew or eat anything hot or cold. Over time, continual flexing can create tiny microfractures in teeth that could weaken them.
The preparation process for amalgam and composite resin fillings is slightly different. During preparation for an amalgam filling, a dentist must remove slightly more tooth structure to shape the cavity for the filling. With a composite resin filling, only the decayed portion of the tooth needs removing, preserving more of the healthy tooth structure.
Another frequently asked question is how long do composite fillings last? Composite tends to stain and need replacing after a few years. In comparison, amalgam is longer lasting and also extremely cost-effective. Composite fillings cost a little more because they are technique-sensitive to place and use advanced materials.
The process for having a filling is quite straightforward but may vary slightly according to the material chosen by you and our dentist.
If you have a composite resin filling, the material is regularly cured or hardened with a special light.
Porcelain and gold fillings are indirect, meaning they are made outside the mouth. After preparing the cavity, we take a detailed dental impression so the filling can be fabricated to our specifications at the dental lab. In the meantime, we fill the tooth with a temporary filling. Once the filling is ready, you return to our practice so we can remove the temporary filling and fit your gold or porcelain filling.
After you have a filling, it’s best not to eat or drink until the anesthetic has worn off as otherwise, you could bite inside of your cheek or your tongue or scald yourself if you eat or drink anything very hot. Initially, there may be some mild soreness or discomfort as the tooth settles down, and some people find the tooth is more sensitive to hot and cold. Typically these sensations improve within a few days, but may take a few weeks to fully resolve.