If you have ever had a cavity, you know how debilitating tooth pain can be. It also means your tooth enamel has been damaged, leaving a hole or cavity in the tooth, putting you at risk for further decay and infection.
Thankfully, a dental filling can repair the cavity and restore the tooth to its normal function and shape. The goal of a filling is to prevent further decay by closing off any cracks or spaces where bacteria can enter. If you need a filling, Middle Creek Dental can provide you with a safe and effective solution.
What is a Tooth Filling?
A tooth filling is a dental restoration procedure to restore the functionality and lost structure of a tooth surface damaged by decay, fracture, or wear. It involves removing the affected tooth structure and filling the area with a material such as composite resin, porcelain, or gold.
The filling procedure can either be a dental inlay (which fills the center of the tooth) or onlay (which covers one or more cusps of the tooth) in the case of a large area being filled. Tooth fillings are not only important for restoring the function of a damaged tooth but also in preventing further decay and protecting the surrounding teeth from excessive wear or strain.
What Are Tooth Fillings Made Of?
Today, there are several options for tooth fillings, but the two most common materials used are amalgam and composite resin. Amalgam, also known as silver fillings, is a mixture of metals, including mercury, silver, copper, and tin. Amalgam fillings are ideal for larger cavities, as they are durable and long-lasting.
They are also the best when there is heavy saliva flow during the appointment, as amalgam can withstand the pressure. Silver fillings can last between 10 to 15 years with proper care.
Composite resin fillings, also known as white or tooth-colored fillings, are made of plastic (acrylic) resin and fine glass fillers. They are the least invasive option, as they micro-mechanically bond directly with the tooth and require less removal of healthy enamel during placement.
Composite filling material is also commonly used to repair front teeth that have chipped or worn. Where possible, aesthetic bonding of composite material to front teeth is generally much less expensive than veneers or crowns.
However, bonding typically does not last as long as veneers or crowns.
Composite resin fillings can also match the color of your natural teeth, making them a more aesthetically pleasing option. These fillings are best used in front teeth or visible areas of the tooth.
In addition, we use composite fillings to repair chipped or cracked teeth. While composite fillings have a shorter lifespan than amalgam fillings, typically lasting around five years, they can easily be fixed or replaced.
Other options for tooth fillings include ceramic, gold, and glass ionomer. Ceramic fillings are made of porcelain and are strong and highly resistant to stains, making them a good option for front teeth. Generally, ceramic fillings last more than 15 years.
Gold fillings (inlays or onlays) are made of an alloy of gold, copper, and other metals and are durable. They can last more than 20 years but come at a higher cost than other options. Glass ionomer fillings are also tooth-colored and made of acrylic and glass fillers.
This type of filling is mainly used in filling cavities below the gum line and fillings for young children (drilling is still necessary). Glass ionomers release fluoride, which helps prevent further decay and can last anywhere from five years or less.
Ultimately, the best filling material will depend on the location and size of the cavity, as well as personal preferences. Our skilled dental team will work with you to determine the best option for your unique situation.
Are Dental Fillings Safe?
Over the past years, some concerns have been raised about the safety of dental fillings containing mercury, also known as amalgam fillings.
However, the American Dental Association (ADA) and the FDA both state that dental amalgam is a safe and effective option for treating cavities in adults and children ages six years old or above.
Millions of people have safely received dental amalgam fillings for decades, with no evidence to suggest that the small amount of mercury in dental amalgam poses a health risk.
How Long Do Dental Fillings Take?
Since dental fillings involve filling and sealing a cavity, the process can vary in time depending on the size and location of the cavity.
On average, dental fillings can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour to complete, though larger fillings or multiple fillings may require multiple appointments.
Also, depending on the filling materials, the time required may differ. For instance, composite fillings can usually be completed in one appointment, while porcelain or gold fillings may require an impression and fabrication time at a dental laboratory before being placed.
Replacing old fillings may also take longer, as additional steps may be necessary, such as drilling out the old filling material.
How Long Do Dental Fillings Last?
Usually, dental fillings can last anywhere from five to 15 years. However, the longevity of a filling greatly depends on the location and size of the filling, as well as the individual's oral hygiene habits and biting patterns.
The type of material used for the filling can also affect its lifespan. For example, composite resin fillings typically last for about five to seven years, while amalgam (silver) fillings can last up to 15 years or more.
Why Would I Need a Dental Filling?
There are several reasons why dental filling may be necessary. Loss of tooth structure can occur from decay, wear and tear, or trauma. A filling is used to restore the function and appearance of the affected tooth.
Discolored teeth may also benefit from a filling in order to improve their aesthetic appearance. Fractured teeth may also require a filling to protect and restore the tooth.
In some cases, a dental filling may be recommended as a preventative measure to avoid future issues with decay or fractures. It is important to address these concerns as they can lead to more significant dental problems if left untreated.
Besides cavities, sometimes a patient may have diminutive holes in their teeth called dental pits or fissures. These can easily trap food and bacteria, leading to decay. Filling these areas can protect against tooth decay and maintain the tooth's health.
More Questions? Call!
Dental fillings help restore and protect teeth to maintain optimal oral health. If you have any questions about whether you may need a filling or want to request an appointment for fillings today, please don't hesitate to contact us here at Middle Creek Dental at (208) 505-9975 and we will offer you a state-of-the-art solution to your dental concerns.