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All you need to know about fillings

Fillings restore full health and functionality to a tooth effectively. 

Dental filling procedures are most commonly used to treat cavities, but they’re also used to repair teeth that have been worn down over time.

What is a dental filling?

A filling is a way to restore a tooth damaged by decay back to its normal function and shape.

Most people need at least one tooth filling in their lifetime, mainly because of cavities.

A cavity is a hole left behind after tooth decay destroys part of a tooth.

The cavity in the tooth still contains the bacteria that created it. Left unchecked, this decay will continue to spread and damage the tooth.

Removing the decay prevents further damage, but it doesn’t fix the damage to the tooth that already occurred.

That’s where fillings come in; by restoring the strength and integrity of the tooth and prevent decay from re-entering the vulnerable area.

What are the benefits of a dental filling?

Dental fillings provide an array of benefits, including:

  • Durability

Today’s fillings are highly resistant to corrosion.

Tooth-colored fillings tend to last about five to seven years, while silver fillings tend to last about 12 years.

Opt for cast gold fillings or porcelain fillings and they will prove effective for upwards of 15 years.

  • More than cavities

Fillings are useful in instances of tooth decay and also to repair broken and cracked teeth.

  • Quick procedure

When only one tooth is affected by decay, the fillings treatment can be completed in as little as one hour.

  • Aesthetic

Dental fillings made of composite resin are optimal for those who are concerned with tooth aesthetics.

Tooth-colored filling restorations produce a natural appearance; often used to replace old silver amalgam fillings

  • Bolster a weakened structure

Indirect fillings are optimal when the existing tooth structure is weakened to the point that it can’t support a traditional filling.

If this damage has not reached the point where a crown is necessary, an indirect filling in the form of an onlay or inlay will prove highly effective compared to a traditional filling.

  • Prevent infection

If you need dental work like a root canal performed across several visits, a temporary filling can be placed to give the tooth and gums the time to heal.

This temporary tooth also allows the nerves to relax before the permanent filling is added. The use of a temporary filling ensures the exposed tooth does not become infected while waiting.

  • Functionality

Dental decay has the potential to make chewing quite difficult and painful. Have your decayed teeth filled and you might find eating proves less painful.

Who is an ideal candidate for dental fillings?

An ideal candidate for a filling is anyone with tooth decay, cavities, fractured teeth, shows pain in the decayed tooth, and does not have other major tooth or health problems.

Which types of dental fillings are available?

There are various types of dental fillings:

  • Gold fillings

  • Amalgam (silver) fillings

  • Composite (plastic) resins

  • Porcelain fillings

  • Glass ionomer, made of acrylic and a specific type of glass material.

Ask your dentist to see which type of filling is best for you, depending on diagnosing and your budget.

What are the risks of having dental fillings?

It is important to know about potential problems, so you can see your dentist promptly to have cavity fillings adjusted or repaired.

Possible complications from dental fillings include:

  • Infection

  • Sometimes a cavity filling will pull away from the tooth to which it is attached, creating a small space.

This space can be a breeding ground for bacteria that can cause additional tooth decay.

If you notice a space between your tooth and your cavity filling, visit a dentist as soon as possible.

  • Damage

Sometimes a cavity filling breaks, cracks, or falls out. Damage to a filling can occur when you bite down on something hard or if you are hit in the mouth while playing sports.

See a dentist as soon as you notice damage to a cavity filling to avoid irritation and infection of the unprotected tooth.

How is the process of dental filling procedure like? 

Here is a breakdown of the process of putting a dental filling:

First, the dentist will use a local anesthetic to numb the area around the tooth to be filled.

Next, a drill, air abrasion instrument, or laser will be used to remove the decayed area.

After, your dentist will probe or test the area to determine if all the decay has been removed.

Once the decay has been removed, the 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 to protect the nerve.

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 multi-layering process is completed, the dentist will shape the composite material to the desired result, trim off any excess material, and polish the final restoration.

How long do dental fillings last?

Depending on the filling type, the durability varies:

  • Gold fillings 15 to 30 years

  • Silver amalgam fillings can last from 10 to 15 years

  • Composite resin fillings may last 5 to 7 years

  • Porcelain fillings can last up to 20 years

  • Glass ionomer generally lasts 5 years or less

What is the recovery time of dental fillings?

Fillings usually require local anesthesia, which can last between two and four hours. During this time, you should take extra care of your mouth.

Be careful not to accidentally bite the inside of your mouth while it’s numb.

Avoid eating until fully recover the feeling in your mouth. Also avoid hot drinks, as you could unintentionally scald your mouth.

The anesthesia wearing off can feel like pins and needles. As you regain feeling, you may notice a small ache in your gum or jaw.

This is because the gum tissue may have been irritated by the procedure or the injection.

Dentist usually recommend chewing carefully and you should return to normal within a few days.

Once the numbness in your mouth wears off, check your bite and make sure it feels comfortable.

To maintain fillings, you should follow good oral hygiene like brushing with a fluoride toothpaste and flossing.

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.

What should I expect after a dental fillings?

While the mouth might feel a bit numb for a few hours following the procedure, there may only be a bit of soreness following the procedure.

In other cases, the patient may feel a bit of sensitivity for a few days or so.

In many cases, the sensitivity will likely last several days or even possibly several weeks.

This sensitivity is completely normal as it is a result of nerves in the filled tooth sending pain signals to surrounding teeth and gums.

Thus, there is no need to panic if you feel sensitive in the aftermath of a filling. It is perfectly natural for a few days.

If there are concerns that the sensitivity is taking too long, contact your dentist.

Are dental fillings covered by insurance?

Dental fillings are usually not covered by insurance.

However, you should check with your healthcare provider and insurance company if there is a medical reason for you to have this kind of treatment.

What is the cost of dental fillings?

In the Dominican Republic, the average cost of dental fillings is about 70 USD per tooth.

The orthodontist places a maximum of seven fillings per session and it may be divided into four stages, depending on the fillings needed.

Prices may vary from case to case.

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