Tooth fillings 101: Everything you need to know

Need a tooth filling? Much like the treatment’s name implies, a tooth filling involves exactly that and is considered one of the most routine procedures in dentistry. So if you’re looking for the 101 on tooth fillings, read on to find out more to help you say ahhhh, I didn’t know that. 

What is a tooth filling? 

If you know you need a filling, it’s likely you’ve been told you have a cavity. Cavities, also known as tooth decay or caries, are holes which can develop in the surface of your tooth enamel. And if left untreated, a cavity can become serious. 

Fillings are considered a restorative treatment for cavities. It involves evening out the surface of the tooth to restore its original shape and improve the function of biting or chewing. By sealing these cavities, it also limits where bacteria can foster and grow, preventing further decay. 

How do I know if I need a tooth filling?

In their early stages, cavities are hard to self-diagnose so you might have one and not even know it. If progressed, you might feel symptoms that cause you to visit your dentist for a diagnosis. These symptoms include:

  • Toothaches, throbbing or sharp pains
  • Sensitivity at the touch or too hot, cold, acidic, or sweet foods and drinks
  • A visible hole or pit in your tooth
  • Browning teeth (not caused by coffee intake or cigarette smoking).

For the early detection of cavities, your dentist may recommend a bitewing x-ray during your annual clean and check appointment. A bitewing shows areas of decay that may not be visible to the human eye, lurking in between teeth or hidden in existing fillings.

Types of tooth fillings

It’s a common misconception that if you need a filling, the outcome will leave your mouth full of metal – the end result of a traditional amalgam filling. But advancements in this area of dentistry mean that these unsightly fillings (often made from a mixture of mercury, silver, tin, and copper) are no longer your only option.

Composite fillings

If you’re looking for a natural looking appearance and less invasive procedure, composite fillings are for you. Also known as ‘white fillings,’ they’re made from a composite resin – a liquid substance made from plastic and glass particles. During treatment, your dentist will inject the resin into your tooth’s cavity in the form of a paste. Then they’ll manipulate the formula to mimic your natural tooth and set it with a dental curing light which hardens the resin.

Not only are composite fillings aesthetically pleasing, but less tooth structure is removed during the cavity preparation process. They’re also a suitable type of filling for front teeth or visible teeth and stronger than amalgam fillings.

Ceramic and porcelain restorations 

If you’re a big coffee drinker, smoker, or have more damage to your teeth than a small hole, a ceramic or porcelain filling could be your solution. Given their strength and durability they’re a suitable solution for damage caused by clenching or teeth grinding and the material is less likely to stain over time.

Aftercare for your filling

After your treatment, it’s important to follow your dentist’s instructions to prevent damage to your new dental fillings.

  • In the first few hours after your appointment, avoid eating or drinking anything except water.
  • When it’s time for your next meal, make sure to eat soft food and avoid biting down directly onto the filled surface. You might find that it feels tender if you do.
  • Take care when brushing your teeth. Use a soft-bristled brush and be careful when brushing around your new filling in case it’s still sore to touch. The same applies to your flossing technique – it’s fine to floss, but try not to irritate the particular area within the first 24 hours while it heals.
  • Limit your intake of coffee, red wine, and the number of cigarettes you smoke. Whilst you don’t need to avoid them entirely (although quitting smoking is always a good idea), it’s worth thinking about your habits long term and what you can do to prevent your fillings from becoming discoloured or damaged.

Contact your local dentist in Gosford

Simply put, if you’re not looking after your teeth, you’re at risk of developing cavities and a likely candidate for fillings in the future. Be sure to have regular dental check up and cleans so your dentist can check for signs you might need a filling. Book your appointment online.

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