Most adults in Australia have at least one filling – and some of us have a lot more. Fillings are one of the most common dental treatments you can have. Read on to find out everything you need to know about dental fillings.
What is a filling?
Dental fillings are used to repair decayed, damaged or worn teeth and enable you to use them again. When plaque and food particles remain in contact with teeth for long periods of time, bacteria will cause toxins and acid to dissolve the tooth enamel.
Over time this will chip away at the tooth until a cavity, or hole, develops. This decay will cause you to experience sensitivity and pain when biting or chewing.
To repair the cavity, the decayed tooth tissue is removed, and a dentist will fill the space with a filling material.
If you don’t get a filling, the cavity in your tooth will only get worse, causing pain and possible worse problems such as an abscess. More severe decay may require a much more costly, involved and time-consuming procedure such as a root canal, a crown or an extraction.
What are fillings made of?
Fillings have traditionally been made of a number of different types of filling material, including:
- Dental amalgam (silver fillings)
- Composite resin (tooth coloured fillings)
Each material has its own benefits and drawbacks, and each is useful in certain situations.
Here at Lentini Dental, we use tooth-coloured filling material. Silver amalgam fillings were removed from the practice in 1995, and now all fillings are completed with the cosmetically-ideal tooth-coloured materials.
What is the process involved in getting a filling?
The process of getting a filling is quite standard, and will involve the following steps:
- The dentist will numb your teeth, gums and tongue and inject an anaesthetic to reduce your pain.
- A rubber dam (a small sheet of rubber attached to a frame) may sometimes be attached to your tooth to stop liquid and tooth chips from falling into your mouth and throat.
- The dentist will then use air abrasion or a drill to remove all the decay from the affected tooth.
- The tooth is then cleaned and dried and prepared for placement of the filling.
- The hole will then be filled with the filling material. This soft material sets hard through the use of UV lights.
- The filling is then smoothed to ensure a correct bite.
- Your tooth will then be cleaned and polished.
The whole process will take around an hour for most people. It’s a quick and usually painless procedure.
What should I expect after getting a filling?
Your lips and teeth will probably be numb for a few hours following a filling, so you’ll need to be careful when chewing. Your filled tooth may also be more sensitive to heat and cold for a few weeks after being filled. This is quite normal. Toothpastes for sensitive teeth may help with this problem.
You can expect to be able to use your tooth fairly soon after getting a filling. It should feel just like any other normal tooth within a short time, and most people won’t even be able to feel where the filling was done.
What aftercare do fillings need?
While fillings don’t need any special aftercare, you shouldn’t neglect your oral care routine. This will help your filling last as long as possible. Make sure you:
- Clean your teeth twice a day with a soft toothbrush and a fluoride toothpaste
- Floss daily
- Use mouthwash
- Have regular dental check-ups
- Eat a wide variety of nutritious foods
Doing these things will help prevent tooth decay and help you avoid the need for further fillings.
How effective are fillings?
Fillings are highly effective in repairing teeth and stopping tooth decay. Fillings can prevent further problems and tooth decay, as well as preventing pain, sensitivity and enamel loss.
Are there any adverse side effects to getting a filling?
There is an extremely low level of risk involved in getting a filling at the dentist. For most people, there will be no problems at all. However, if you have certain heart problems, you may need antibiotics before the procedure to prevent infection of the heart.
How expensive are fillings?
Fillings are generally fairly inexpensive as far as dental treatments go. The actual cost will depend upon the material being used, the size of the filling and the amount of remaining tooth structure. Fillings are usually covered under your health insurance, so may cause very little out-of-pocket expense to you, depending on your level of cover.
Check with your health insurance provider to make sure. Your treating dentist should also be able to give you an idea of the probably cost of the treatment.
How long do fillings last?
Over time and years of chewing, worn out fillings may need to be replaced. Fillings can last anywhere from three to seven years on average, and will need annual check-ups.
If you are prone to grinding or clenching your teeth, your fillings may wear out quicker and need replacing sooner. As soon as you notice signs of wear or cracks on your fillings, see your dentist to get them replaced. Failure to do so can cause the tooth to crack, which will require more expensive and complicated repairs.
Contact us here if you require more information about fillings or would like to speak to our friendly and experienced dentists.