Oral Health Guidelines: Filling Basics

By  , Expert Content
Dec 04, 2012

Determining If You Need a Filling


Your dentist will examine and tell if you need a filling. A dentist uses a small mirror to inspect the surface of all the teeth. If needed your dentist may ask for X-ray of the teeth and jaw.


The treatment for your decayed tooth will be decided by the dentist after examination. Filling is done not only for decay but for cracked or broken teeth, or teeth worn due to abnormal strain such as nail-biting, tooth grinding as well.


Steps to a Filling


Before filling your dentist will give you local anesthesia to numb the area if necessary. The decayed tooth part is removed and the concerned area is cleaned using hand instruments or a drill or air abrasion and lasers.


After removing the decay material your dentist will drill and remove a part of the healthy tooth to shape the space to prepare it for the filling. The type of filling that is best for you will be decided by your dentist based on

  • Extent of the repair that needs to be done,
  • Your allergies to certain materials
  • Which tooth needs filling
  • Cost factor

Commonly used materials for filling are gold, porcelain, a composite resin (tooth-colored fillings), and amalgam. Some filling materials release fluoride and aid to prevent further tooth decay. After the filling is done your dentist will make use of burs to finish and polish the tooth.


After a Filling


Following filling you may experience some sensitivity in the tooth. The tooth may become sensitive to pressure, air, sweet foods or temperature. Sensitivity is most often caused by composite filling but other types of filling material can also make the tooth sensitive.


Sensitivity in your tooth will usually subside over one to two weeks. Avoid things that cause sensitivity. Tell your dentist about the sensitivity in your tooth following the filling. Depending on the extent of sensitivity the doctor will decide what should be done next.


You may have some discomfort while biting. If the pain worsens over time tell your dentist about it. The filling placed in the tooth may need to be reshaped. If the discomfort is as a sharp shock when your teeth touch it is called galvanic shock. It is caused by the two metals used as filling in your tooth (one in the newly filled tooth and one in the tooth it's touching). When the metals touch they produce an electric current in your mouth and cause the discomfort.


Temporary Fillings


Some people may be given a temporary filling (usually white, off-white or gray) if

  • Filling needs more than one appointment.
  • A short period of time is needed for the tooth to heal
  • If the cavity is deep and the pulp (nerve and blood vessels)  are exposed during treatment.
  • In case of emergency dental treatment.

Temporary fillings provide a soothing effect on the tooth and you may feel better after it seals the tooth, and protects the pulp from bacteria and decreases the sensitivity. Eugenol is most often used for temporary fillings. You will need to get a permanent filling as recommended by your dentist.


Why Replace a Filling


Remember that fillings are not everlastingly. The filling can become discolored or wear out. Fillings can get damaged because of--chewing too hard on a large filling, or fracture in the filling or the tooth that has the filling. In these cases the filling may need to be replaced.


Besides this a filling may need to be changed if it falls out, leaks or cracks. A crack or leak in the filling permits food debris and bacteria in your mouth to seep below the filling. As it is difficult to clean under a fill...

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