What You Need to Know about Dental Fillings

What You Need to Know about Dental Fillings

The old fillings in your teeth are a dark silver in color. Your teenage daughter needs a filling, but is horrified to think it would look like yours. She doesn’t want her filling to show.

Dental fillings have come a long way over the years. If your dentist feels the material will work for your teenager, a filling can be made that will blend in with her natural teeth.

There are several types of materials your dentist can use to fill cavities. The type of material used depends on several factors, including your unique oral health needs.

Before you discuss your oral health needs with your dentist, here are a few tips on what you need to know about dental fillings.

Why Dental Fillings are Necessary

When a cavity forms in a tooth, in order to save the tooth from further damage, your dentist must remove the decay. The hole that is left behind needs to be filled or the tooth could sustain more damage from further decay.

Dental fillings are materials that can be put in the tooth to fill the hole. The filling bonds to the tooth wall to create a seal to keep out any food particles or bacteria that could cause more damage.

What Filling Material Should You Get?

There are several types of materials that can be used as dental fillings. These include gold, amalgam, composite resin, and porcelain. Below we’ll go into more details about each type:

  • Gold is a custom-made, durable filling, but is the most expensive. It can take several visits to complete gold fillings.
  • Porcelain fillings, also called inlays or onlays, are also quite expensive. Porcelain fillings are durable, stain-resistant, and are custom-made for your teeth, including matching your natural teeth color. Porcelain fillings can also take several visits to complete.
  • Composite resin, a type of plastic, is the newest material used for dental fillings. This filling usually only takes one visit and can be made to match your natural tooth color. Composite resin fillings generally last from three to ten years. They are more prone to chips, general wear, and more easily stained by tea, coffee, and tobacco.
  • Amalgam is the most common type of dental filling. This filling material has been used for more than 150 years. Amalgam is a mixture of elemental mercury, a liquid that is mixed with a powdered alloy made of silver, tin, and copper. It is known to be strong, durable, and long-lasting.

A note about amalgam fillings: This filling is made of approximately 50% mercury. The mercury emits a low level vapor that can be inhaled into the lungs. Based on extensive research, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that amalgam fillings are safe for adults and kids six years old and older.

What Steps are Involved in Filling a Tooth

Dental fillings are a relatively easy process. The steps your dentist takes to fill your tooth may depend on the type of material that’s used.

Gold or porcelain fillings often take several visits to complete. On your first visit, a mold will be made of the tooth that needs the filling. The filling will be made by a lab or your dental office. You will have to go back for a second visit to have the filling put in the tooth.

Before your dentist starts the dental procedure you may be given a local anesthetic to numb the area around your tooth. Once the area is numb, your dentist will drill through the enamel of your tooth to reach the part that is decayed. Your tooth will then be shaped for the filling.

To help the filling create a strong seal with the tooth, an acid gel is used to etch the surface. The filling material is then placed in your tooth, and a laser or blue light is used to harden the material. Your dentist will then clean off any rough edges and polish the tooth to ensure it blends in with your natural teeth.

What Will Your Dental Filling Look Like?

The look of your dental filling will depend on the type of material your dentist decides is best for your oral health needs. Gold fillings will be a good color and amalgam fillings will be a silver color. Composite resin and porcelain fillings can be made to match the color of your natural teeth.

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