So, you’re at the dentist for your semi-annual checkup and you’re informed you have a cavity. If you have never had a cavity before this could be a confusing time for you, but it is nothing to be overly worried about. Getting a cavity filled is a procedure many people will go through at least once in their lifetime and it is also one of the most routine procedures a dentist performs.
Getting fillings when needed is crucial for your oral health and will prevent serious damage to your teeth. While a cavity may not be something worth losing your marbles over, you might still have some questions regarding the types of fillings available, like if they are painful and what you should expect. Keep reading as we go through some of the most frequently asked cavity questions.
What causes cavities
Cavities are permanent damage to a tooth that is caused by tooth decay over a period of time. Tooth decay starts when plaque is formed on the surface of a tooth. When sugars and starches are not cleaned off of a tooth, bacteria will start to feed off of the remnants which create plaque. Plaque contains acids that deteriorate the minerals in your tooth’s enamel forming tiny holes which is the first stage of a cavity.
The tiny holes create space for bacteria and acid to reach deeper into the tooth to the area that affects the tooth’s sensitivity, the dentin. As tooth decay continues into the pulp, or inner part of the tooth, it reaches the area of nerves and blood vessels. Pain is usually experienced during this stage of tooth decay because swelling and irritation from bacteria can cause pressure and pain in the tooth root and bone. If cavities are not treated, they can lead to severe damage that could require a root canal or extraction.
Do fillings hurt? Here’s what to expect
The purpose of fillings is to restore damaged teeth and more commonly cavities. While patients report slight discomfort during a filling, it is uncommon to experience severe, intolerable pain. As previously mentioned, this is a very common procedure for dentists to perform and modern dentistry has alleviated much of the pain once associated with getting a filling.
You can expect a filling to take about an hour, depending on the severity. Typically, a local anesthetic will be administered to limit any discomfort during the procedure. Once the work starts, your dentist will remove any decay and infection with a drill and fill the area and any holes with a filling. This part of the process does not take long at all. After the procedure, your mouth may remain numb for a few hours and you may experience sensitive teeth for a few days. Besides that, pain should be minimal to nonexistent.
Types of fillings
There are several options when it comes to dental fillings and choosing the one that is best for you should be based on preference as well as your dentist’s recommendations. Since each option will differ in cost depending on your insurance coverage, it is important to be informed before making your decision. Each type of filling material has its own pros and cons. Most dental offices will offer the following filling options:
- Silver amalgam
Amalgam and composite fillings are the most widely selected materials by patients.
For more than 100 years dentists have been using amalgam or silver fillings to restore teeth. Dental amalgams are incredibly durable because they are made up of a combination of metals including copper, silver, mercury and tin. Because of their composition, dentists often recommend amalgam fillings for large cavities and cavities in the back teeth where chewing tends to be more aggressive. This material is the least expensive and lasts the longest but is the most visible.
Many patients prefer a composite resin filling because they match the color of your teeth making them less noticeable. Composite material fillings are natural-looking because they are made up of a combination of quartz or glass filler.
Since these fillings are less durable than amalgam fillings, they are ideal for small to mid-sized cavities. Composite fillings are typically more expensive than amalgam fillings and sometimes are not covered by insurance. They also take longer to place because the teeth must be kept dry throughout the entire procedure. Although composite fillings are less durable and more expensive than amalgam fillings, their natural color and society’s emphasis on cosmetics explains their rise to popularity.
Being informed and talking to your dentist about what is best for your oral health is the ideal way to ensure you are making the right choice on filling materials. Oral care does not change after your cavity gets filled as you should still floss and brush your teeth the same as before. It is also critical to keep up with your dental checkups after a filling to avoid future cavities and to maintain any current fillings. If you need to discuss your filling options, you can contact our offices in Oak Park or Lathrup Village to schedule an appointment.