A dental filling is a way to restore the damaged teeth back to its normal shape and function. The dentist initially removes the decay tooth material before giving you a filling. She/he also cleans the surrounding affected area and then proceeds with filling the cleaned out cavity with a filling material.
A filling also prevents further decay by closing off the spaces where bacteria can enter. A composite resin, porcelain, gold and an amalgam ( an alloy of copper, silver, mercury, and tin) are the materials used for the filling.
There is no single type of filling which is best for everyone. The extent of the repair, whether you have allergies to some materials, the location where you need the filling, and also the cost will determine what’s right for you. The different materials used are:
- Gold fillings are ordered in a laboratory and then cemented into the required place. Gold Inlays may last more than 20 years as they are well tolerated by gum tissues. So due to this reason, many authorities consider gold as the best option for filling. However, it requires multiple visits and is also the most expensive compared with other materials.
- Porcelain fillings are called onlays or inlays and are produced to be ordered in a lab and then fixed to the tooth. They can resist staining and also capable of matching to the color of the tooth. The cost of this material is similar to that of gold and restoration generally covers most of the tooth.
- Amalgam fillings are relatively inexpensive and are resistant to wear. But due to their dark color, they become more visible than composite restorations or porcelain and are not usually used in visible areas, especially the front teeth.
- Composite resins are used where a natural appearance is desired and are matched to the same color as your teeth. The ingredients are mixed and they bonded directly into the cavity and then get hardened. These may not be the ideal material as they wear or chip over time. They can become stained from tobacco, coffee, tea and do not last long like the other type of materials.
A cap or crown may be required if the decay has damaged a large portion of your teeth. The decay which has reached the nerve can be treated in two ways- root canal therapy and pulp capping.
You can expect the following during a dental filling.
- Tooth decay removal – Using a drill, the dentist will cut through the enamel to remove the decay. Then shaping is done for making it ready for the filling.
- Local anesthesia – In the beginning, the dentist will give you a local anesthesia in order to numb the area around the tooth.
- Etching – Before placing the filling, the dentist will etch the tooth using a gel.
- Resin application – For some types of fillings, the dentist will layer on the resin and also harden it using a bright light. This will make it stronger.
- Polishing – After placing the filling, the dentist will polish your tooth.