Which Fillings Are Best For Teeth?
When you think of the dentist, you probably think about fillings. Everyone knows fillings are something you get to fix cavities. Beyond that, however, you might not know much about cavity fillings at all. You may even believe some common misconceptions. For whatever reason, fillings have a strangely overblown reputation as painful, serious, or extremely negative.
It’s not hard to understand why many people think poorly of fillings. Everybody knows cavities are not good for your teeth. Learning you have one is not the best news. It makes some sense to associate that bad news with the treatment for the cavity itself. Unfortunately, however, this has the effect of making people feel like getting fillings is a major, disruptive procedure. But that’s not true in most instances. We want to correct that misinformed understanding. Here’s how fillings work, why they’re not a big deal, and why you shouldn’t hesitate to get one.
What steps are involved in filling a tooth?
First, the dentist will numb the area around the tooth with a local anesthetic. Next, a drill, air abrasion instrument or laser will be used to remove the decayed area. The choice of instrument depends on the individual dentist’s comfort level, training, and investment in the particular piece of equipment as well as location and extent of the decay.
Next, your dentist will probe or test the area during the decay removal process to determine if all the decay has been removed. Once the decay has been removed, your dentist will prepare the space for the filling by cleaning the cavity of bacteria and debris. If the decay is near the root, your dentist may first put in a liner made of glass ionomer, composite resin, or other material. Generally, after the filling is in, your dentist will finish and polish it.
Several additional steps are required for tooth-colored fillings and are as follows. After your dentist has removed the decay and cleaned the area, the tooth-colored material is applied in layers. Next, a special light that “cures” or hardens each layer is applied. When the multilayering process is completed, your dentist will shape the composite material to the desired result, trim off any excess material and polish the final restoration.
What types of filling materials are available?
Dental amalgam gets a bad rap. People are concerned that the mercury in the amalgam material will enter the bloodstream (although the mercury levels detected have never been proven to cause illness). Most people don’t like the way it looks either, as its dark colour contrasts strongly with the natural colour of the tooth.
The main reason dental amalgam is bad for your teeth however, is because the material is not dimensionally stable and continually expands with time.
Did you know that what is commonly referred to as ‘white’ fillings is a plastic material? The technical term is composite resin and this material is dimensionally unstable – it doesn’t maintain its shape.
When a dentist places a composite resin filling in your mouth it’s in putty form, or a semi-liquid. It is then cured with a high-intensity blue light, and the putty solidifies and hardens.
Dentists strive hard to reduce this shrinkage but it’s what causes the decay to come back. The primary goal of the filling, the seal, is compromised over time and bacteria gets back in.
It’s not long, in my experience around 2-7 years later, before you need another filling in the same tooth –– but this time a little bigger and a little bit deeper. This causes damage even faster than the old amalgam fillings took to break your tooth.
In my opinion, porcelain (sometimes called dental ceramics), is the best filling material you can use for a restoration. If well-looked after following treatment, it will restore your oral health for the long-term, decades even, with good care. It’s also the most cosmetically appealing of all the materials.
The downside is it is that porcelain is not cheap and these fillings take longer to make.
Porcelain fillings are made outside of the mouth, either by a dental technician or CAD-CAM (Computer Aided Design – Computer Aided Manufacturing) system. This new technology means that porcelain restorations can be made and cemented during the same appointment – so less time and less injections.
Not all dental practices have access to a CAD-CAM, but at Oasis Dental we have not one, but two!
Before the introduction of dental porcelain the best restorative material was gold. It has similar qualities to porcelain, in that it’s very stable and very strong. However as the price of gold increases each year, it is expensive to manufacture and because it looks ‘gold’ it lacks the cosmetic appeal.
Gold restorations have to be done over two appointments and are made by a dental technician, so it is also less convenient. For these reasons, it’s rarely used today, but occasionally it is used when really high strength is required.
How should I care for my teeth with fillings?
To maintain your fillings, you should: follow good oral hygiene practices — visiting your dentist regularly, brushing with a fluoride-containing toothpaste, and flossing at least once daily. If your dentist suspects that a filling might be cracked, he or she will take X-rays to assess the situation. If your tooth is extremely sensitive, if you feel a sharp edge, if you notice a crack in the filling, or if a piece of the filling is missing, call your dentist for an appointment.
We love our patients and love to help them form healthy dental life that will last them a lifetime. For more information call us today to answer all of your questions so get an appointment today.