Most everyone has had a cavity at one time or another. If you haven’t, congratulations! About 78% of Americans have ate least one cavity by the time we turn 17. The time-tested approach to cavity treatment is, of course, the dental fillilng.
Fillings seal small cavities (holes) in your teeth. These cavities are caused by tooth decay. When a filling is applied, the decay is removed and the filling installed to prevent the decay from spreading further into your tooth or even the nerve. Decay that extends into the nerve of a tooth requires a root canal.
Modern filling materials vary (there are many) but the process is similar no matter the filler. The first step is a clinical exam with xrays. The x-rays help Dr Leach determine the extent of the decay, The next step is removal of the decay. Dr Leach will anesthetize your tooth and the surrounding area to minimize discomfort. We know that some people are anxious about the injections used to numb teeth for drillling. Anti-anxiety medication or nitrous-oxide may help with that nervousness. The final step, after the decay is removed, is to “etch” the tooth and bond the filling material to the etched area.
There are two broad categories of dental fillings: metal fillings and tooth-colored fillings. Each may offer particular advantages and disadvantages in certain situations.
Amalgam — This “classic” fillling has been in use for more than a century. A silver filling is actually an “amalgam” of mercury, silver, tin and copper. The mercury is rendered stable and safe as it combines with the other metals. Silver fillings are strong and relatively inexpensive, but are fairly noticable. They also require more drilling than other fillings.
Cast Gold — Cast gold is combined with other metals to create a strong, long-lasting filling. Gold fillings are among the most expensive and can be quite noticable.
Composite — These fillings are designed to match the color of your teeth, so they are harder to spot. This composite material is a mixture of plastic and glass, which bonds directly with the tooth. Composites, which are more expensive than amalgam fillings, and hold up almost as long, require less drilling of the tooth relative to an amalgam.
Porcelain — These high-tech ceramics are strong, lifelike, and don’t stain as easily as composites. Porcelain fillings may be more expensive than composites because they sometimes require use of a dental laboratory or specialized technology. Although many people considered them to be most aesthetically pleasing filling, porcelain, due to its relatively high glass content, can be brittle.
Glass Ionomer — Composed of acrylic and glass powders, these fillings are inexpensive. They are translucent and have the advantage of blending in well with natural tooth color. They also release small amounts of fluoride, which helps prevent decay. Generally speaking, they may not last as long as other restorative materials.
A filling requires a local anesthetic. The numbnes usually wears off within a couple hours. During that time, avoid drinking hot or cold liquids or chewing on the side of your mouth with the new filling. Sensitivity to hot and cold is normal in the first week or two with your new filling. If sensivity persists beyond that, or you have pain when biting, it could be a sign that Dr Leach should adjsut your filling. Continue to brush and floss as normal every day, and visit the Steven Leach Dental at least twice a year for your regular checkups and cleanings.
Remember, tooth decay is a preventable disease. Good oral hygiene and professional care can make your most recent cavity your last!