What is a tooth filling?
To treat a cavity your dentist will remove the decayed portion of the tooth and then “fill” the area on the tooth where the decayed material once lived. Fillings are also used to repair cracked or broken teeth and teeth that have been worn down from misuse (such as from nail-biting or tooth grinding).
What steps are involved in filling a tooth?
First, the dentist will numb the area around the tooth with a local anesthetic. Next, a drill, air abrasion instrument or laser will be used to remove the decayed area. The choice of instrument depends on the individual dentist’s comfort level, training, and investment in the particular piece of equipment as well as location and extent of the decay.
Next, your dentist will probe or test the area during the decay removal process to determine if all the decay has been removed. Once the decay has been removed, your 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 multilayering process is completed, your dentist will shape the composite material to the desired result, trim off any excess material and polish the final restoration.
What types of filling materials are available?
Today, several dental filling materials are available. Teeth can be filled with gold; porcelain; silver amalgam (which consists of mercury mixed with silver, tin, zinc, and copper); or tooth-colored, plastic and glass materials called composite resin fillings. At Lowcountry Family dentistry, like most other dental offices, 95 % of filling are filled with composite resin. The location and extent of the decay, cost of filling material, patients’ insurance coverage and Dr. Covington’s recommendation assist in determining the type of filling that will best address your needs.
Are amalgam-type fillings safe?
Over the past several years, concerns have been raised about silver-colored fillings, otherwise called amalgams. Because amalgams contain the toxic substance mercury, some people think that amalgams are responsible for causing a number of diseases, including autism, Alzheimer’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.
The American Dental Association (ADA), the FDA, and numerous public health agencies say amalgams are safe, and that any link between mercury-based fillings and disease is unfounded. The causes of autism, Alzheimer’s disease, and multiple sclerosis remain unknown. Additionally, there is no solid, scientific evidence to back up the claim that if a person has amalgam fillings removed, he or she will be cured of these or any other diseases.
In March of 2002, the FDA reconfirmed the safety of amalgams. Although amalgams do contain mercury, when they are mixed with other metals, such as silver, copper, tin, and zinc, they form a stable alloy that dentists have used for more than 100 years to fill and preserve hundreds of millions of decayed teeth. The National Institutes of Health published several large-scale studies to answer many of the questions raised about silver-colored amalgams. Results of these studies were released in 2006.
In addition, there has been concern over the release of a small amount of mercury vapor from these fillings, but according to the ADA, there is no scientific evidence that this small amount results in adverse health effects.
Does dental insurance cover the cost of composites?
Most dental insurance plans cover the cost of the composites up to the price of the silver filling, then the patient must pay the difference.
How should I care for my teeth with fillings?
To maintain your fillings, you should follow good oral hygiene practices — visiting your dentist regularly for cleanings, brushing with a fluoride-containing toothpaste, and flossing at least once daily. If your dentist suspects that a filling might be cracked or is “leaking” (when the sides of the filling don’t fit tightly against the tooth, this allows debris and saliva to seep down between the filling and the tooth, which can lead to decay), he or she will take X-rays to assess the situation. 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 our dentist in Beaufort, SC for an appointment.