Dental fillings are used to restore damaged or decayed teeth to their normal function and appearance. Fillings are most commonly needed to treat cavities caused by tooth decay. Having a filling is a common procedure and in most cases can be completed in one appointment.
The dentist firstly removes the decay, cleans and treats the affected area and then restores the tooth with composite filling material. This procedure is commonly performed using local anaesthetic to numb the tooth and the surrounding area; however local anaesthetic is not necessary in all cases.
How do I know if I need a filling?
The truth is, while some decay causes pain or sensitivity, others cause no pain at all. You might be able to see a hole on the outer surface of the tooth, but in many cases, decay can only be dected through dental X-rays and examinations. Regular check-ups and dental X-rays are the best way to detect decay early. If found early enough the effects can be reversed without requiring a filling. If left for longer, the decay may cause more damage to the tooth and eventually involve the tooth's nerve, possibly requiring root canal treatment.
Which type of filling is best?
Your dentist will help you determine what type of filling is right for you, based on the extent of the damage and where in your mouth you need the filling. Some of the common materials used for fillings include:
Commonly known as ‘white fillings’, composites can be matched to the colour of your teeth. This material is constantly being improved and is now suitable for most types of fillings. It is relatively strong and durable, with a commonly accepted lifespan of 5-7 years, depending on the individual.
Although strong and resistant to wear, the use of amalgam as a filling material has declined, as composite resin materials improve. In some instances amalgam may be the best option. It is quite long lasting, but being a metal can expand and contract, causing cracks in the natural teeth.
Porcelain and Ceramic
These are the strongest type of filling material, being long lasting and resistant to stain. Once the tooth is prepared, impressions are taken and sent to a dental lab to mill the filling to the correct shape. Around 1 - 2 weeks later, the filling is bonded to the tooth to replace the lost tooth structure.
Gold is rarely used by dentists anymore as other options have a better appearance. It is strong and long lasting, but is mainly suitable for back teeth.
If you are concerned about the effects of decay, it’s important to act quickly! Book a check-up today.
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