What to Expect – Dental Filling Treatment

Dental Filling Oakland, CA

Dental fillings are commonly used to fill cavities caused by tooth decay as well as to repair damage to teeth, such as cracks or fractures. While a dental filling is considered a minor procedure for most patients, those who have never experienced it may have questions about what happens during the procedure and what to expect afterward. 

The dental filling process

The basic breakdown of a dental appointment to treat a cavity includes diagnosis by the dentist, preparation of the tooth, placement of restorative material and instruction after the procedure. An assistant is often present to help the dentist throughout the procedure. Sometimes, more than one tooth can be treated at a time if the teeth are on the same side of the mouth.

Diagnosis by the dentist

There are many diagnostic materials that dentists can use to detect dental decay. X-rays, visual examination and laser detectors are all ways that a dentist can determine that a tooth needs a filling. This restorative option is used when the cavity is in the first or second layer of the tooth. These layers are known as enamel and dentin.

If the cavity is too close to the nerve of the tooth, a filling may no longer be a viable option. However, decayed enamel and dentin respond well to this type of treatment. It is important that a patient have the treatment as soon as possible so that the cavity does not get larger. Dental decay is a progressive disease, and letting the problem go untreated for too long can limit future treatment options. 

Filling placement

The dentist will use a handpiece (commonly called a drill) to remove the decayed enamel from the tooth. Once all decay is removed, the filling material will be placed inside the tooth, and a special light will be placed over the tooth to cure the material. The material will be completely hardened once the light-cure is applied. 

Types of fillings

The material used for a dental filling depends greatly on the position of the tooth and the preference of the patient. There are four basic types of fillings, and the dentist will work with the patient to determine the best type to use for their individual situation.

  • Gold fillings: Gold fillings are constructed from a blend of 75% gold and 25% other metal, and they are the strongest type of filling. 
  • Amalgam (silver) fillings: These fillings are made from a metal such as tin, silver, mercury, or copper. When placed in the tooth, amalgam fillings take on a silver appearance. Although they are the most cost-effective option, they are not used very often anymore.
  • Ceramic fillings: Ceramic fillings are constructed from a high-level ceramic material and designed to match the shape and color of natural teeth. While not as strong as gold fillings, their strength increases when the ceramic is bonded to the tooth.
  • Composite fillings: Also known as direct fillings, composite fillings are made from an adhesive material and directly applied to the affected tooth. The material includes an element that is sensitive to light and is cured to a hard state by a special high-powered light. Composite fillings have the same shape and color as natural teeth and are the most common type of filling recommended by dentists.

Post-operative instruction

The assistant or dentist will talk to the patient about steps to take following the procedure, including not eating for a certain period of time to refrain from chewing on the lip. Normal brushing and flossing habits can usually be resumed later that day.

Post-operative care is typically minor after this type of procedure. The most commonly reported symptom is tooth sensitivity, in which case a fluoride rinse can be used in conjunction with a sensitivity-formula toothpaste.

Filling replacement

A patient sometimes needs a filling adjusted or replaced. Depending on the placement of the filling, years of chewing may cause tooth fillings to eventually wear out. Bruxism, the act of clenching or grinding the teeth, can cause them to wear out even sooner. The appearance of cracks or worn spots on or around the filling should be immediately examined by a dentist to determine whether a replacement or other type of intervention (such as a crown) may be necessary.

Conclusion

While a dental filling is often considered a minimally-invasive procedure, it is still important that the patient knows what to expect during and after the procedure. For patients needing this type of restorative treatment, a discussion with the dental provider is recommended to find out why the treatment is needed and the risks of not seeking treatment. In this way, the patient can make an informed decision about their care.

Request an appointment here: https://www.dentistoaklandca.com or call Laurel Smile Dentistry at (510) 530-3317 for an appointment in our Oakland office.

Check out what others are saying about our dental services on Yelp: Composite Fillings in Oakland, CA.

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