A dental filling, also known as a dental restoration, is a treatment done with the intent of restoring the integrity, function, and form of a tooth, which might have been somehow compromised via dental caries (cavities) or some form of trauma.
Normally, as you’d come in to visit your dentist, the surfaces of your teeth will be examined. After a thorough checkup, your dentist will let you know if you have tooth cavities that need to be filled.
Are dental fillings painful?
No, the actual procedure in applying your dental filling won’t hurt. Keep in mind, however, that you might feel pain while your dentist is working on your tooth, depending on how bad or how extensive the decay is on the tooth in question.
In many cases, people come in to visit the dentist when they’re experiencing a toothache, hoping to find some relief from the pain.
If dental caries has advanced enough that it has already reached the deep dentin and pulp, there will be some tooth sensitivity and maybe even some pain, especially as your dentist has to remove all the tooth decay and clean the space within your tooth.
Keep in mind, though, that the ultimate goal is to relieve you of the pain of your decayed tooth. So while there may be some discomfort during the process, once your dentist is done, your tooth will now be pain-free!
What are dental fillings made of?
While each material has its own pros and cons, dental filling materials today are chosen mostly because they’re generally safe, have good resistance to mastication forces, and bind well with teeth.
Materials used for dental filling include:
- silver amalgam (which consists of mercury mixed with silver, tin, zinc, and copper)
- composite resin fillings
- glass ionomer cement
Many specialists consider gold to be one of the best filling materials you can use for your teeth. Gold fillings can last for well over 20 years and they’re well tolerated by the gums, but they’re also very expensive.
Silver amalgam fillings
Because of its distinct color and appearance, silver dental amalgam fillings are used in areas where they aren’t just as visible, like molars or the back part of certain teeth. On the plus side, they are quite cost-friendly and resistant to regular wear and tear.
Composite resin fillings
The biggest advantage of resin fillings, or “white dental fillings”, is that they can easily be made to match the natural color of your teeth.
The downside is that it can get stained and discolored over time, especially if you drink a lot of coffee or smoke a lot. Another disadvantage is that composite dental fillings generally have shorter longevity– about three to 10 years.
Called inlays or onlays, porcelain fillings need to be produced made-to-order in a laboratory just like gold.
Just like resin fillings, porcelain is used because they can easily look like real teeth. While they’re also a lot more stain-resistant, porcelain fillings are also quite costly.
Glass ionomer cement
Thanks to advances in dental and oral care technology, better materials are discovered as viable options for tooth fillings. Glass ionomer cement is one such material.
It’s almost like composite resin, but with the distinct advantage of being placed in cavities without the need for bonding agents to attach to the tooth.
They’re also not subject to concerns of shrinkage or microleakage, and they also release fluoride, which helps hinder the development of more dental caries.
How dental filling is done
When it’s time for your dentist to carry out dental filling procedures on your teeth, here’s what you can expect:
- First, a local anesthesia may be administered to numb the area around your tooth.
- Next, using a variety of tools, your dentist will then cut through the enamel of the affected tooth to remove any decay, effectively cleaning the space within your tooth.
- This clean space will now be shaped and prepared to receive the dental filling.
- In the case of a bonded filling, your dentist will etch the tooth with an acid gel before \ filling in the space.
- For resin-type fillings, your dentist will apply the resin material in layers, then harden it using a bright light, making it strong and well-set.
- Finally, after the filling has been placed, the tooth will be cleaned and polished.
Your dentist will be happy to go through the exact steps of the dental filling procedure with you, answering any other questions you might have.
Dental filling pain after the procedure
Most of the time, once your dentist clears away your tooth decay and patches up the cavity, everything works out just fine.
It would be normal for your tooth to be a little sensitive after the procedure, such as when you eat hot or cold foods, or when you bite down on that tooth. That type of pain typically resolves within several days.
However, on the off-chance you experience some pain persisting after the filling procedure, get in touch with your dentist right away. The pain may then be due to:
- Loose tooth fillings. It’s possible the filling was placed incorrectly, or somehow cracked, or came loose.
- An allergic reaction to the tooth filling. While your dentist might have had a discussion with you about allergies you might have, an allergy or a sensitivity towards a particular filling material can happen. This is especially the case with metallic fillings (such as silver amalgam.
How often do dental fillings need to be replaced?
Keep in mind that your teeth are some of the hardest substances in your body, and through everyday chewing, they are subjected to incredible amounts of crushing pressure.
Proper oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentist do go a long way towards the longevity of your teeth and your dental fillings. So considering the material used for filling, everyday wear-and-tear, and your overall oral care routine, the short question is: how long do dental fillings last?
Dental fillings are expected to maintain their structural integrity for about 12 to 15 years. This is just a broad generalization, however, as many factors come into play that determines the longevity of your fillings.
Through the occasional checkup, your dentist can identify if certain sections of your tooth need additional patching up, or if your fillings might have to be replaced eventually.
Can fillings be used to close dental gaps?
No, dental fillings are not used to close dental gaps.
Dental fillings are used to fill up cavities within a tooth. When it comes to gaps between teeth, however, a number of other viable options are considered instead.
It is important to consult with the right dental specialist on how to fill dental gaps you want to be addressed. The more commonly used techniques can include either dental bonding or veneers, the application of braces or retainers, or other surgical procedures.
A Final Word
The reason why regular dental visits are important is so your dentist can spot trouble spots in and around your teeth that need to be treated right away.
Dental caries, or cavities, are quite common, but if left unattended, it can lead to painful toothaches because the tooth decay has been progressing further towards the tooth pulp.
As part of the efforts to restore your teeth to its peak form, dental filling procedures are, thus, fairly routine. Still, your dental specialist will go over all the important details of your tooth restoration procedure with you.