Fillings are routinely used to repair decayed, chipped, or broken teeth and keep your teeth intact.
When you come in for your dental exam, we routinely check your fillings and, when we find one in need of repair or replacement, we will work with you to set a time for your next appointment. We also look for signs of decay, such as brown or black spots and may want to use X-rays to take a closer look at problem spots.
Believe it or not, not all cavities are automatically filled. If you have a small cavity, we may keep a watchful eye on it. If the cavity worsens and becomes larger, we will repair it.
It’s important to look after large cavities quickly. If left unfilled, they can get bigger and cause pain. We may even have to remove your tooth and replace it with a false (or artificial) tooth.
There are several different types of fillings that we will review with you to select the best filling for your needs. As always, you are our priority. If you have any questions or concerns about your fillings, we are happy to discuss them with you.
How do you fill a cavity?
The first step to filling a cavity is freezing. Unless your cavity is small, you will have to receive a local anesthetic to ensure you do not feel any pain. Once you are adequately frozen, our team will remove all traces of decay, shape the hole, and fill it.
Most fillings are done in two ways:
Direct Filling: These fillings go right into the cavity once the decay has been removed. Amalgam (or silver) fillings and plastic (or white) fillings are typically used as they harden quickly. Direct fillings can be put in place in one appointment most of the time.
Indirect Filling: Crowns (or caps) and inlays are the most common types of indirect fillings. They are custom made in a lab to fit your tooth then cemented into place here at the office. Most indirect fillings take two or more appointments to complete.
What materials are used in fillings?
While dental amalgam is the material most often used in direct fillings, cast gold alloy is the preferred, and some say most durable, material used in indirect fillings. Ceramics continue to gain popularity because of their longevity relative to other tooth-coloured materials. All materials used fall into one of three areas: composite fillings, glass ionomer fillings, and porcelain fillings.
Composite fillings are also called plastic or white fillings. To place this filling, we clean all decay from your tooth and put glue (or bonding material) on the inside of the hole. Composite resin is put into the hole in thin layers. Each layer gets hard with the help of a special light that is held over your tooth. When the last layer of the filling is hard, we shape it to look and feel natural.
- These fillings will be the same colour as your natural teeth.
- They cost less than gold fillings.
- They are direct fillings, and, in most cases, can be done in one appointment.
- These fillings break more easily than amalgam or gold fillings and may not last as long.
- Composite fillings cost more than amalgam fillings.
- Recurrent decay is more of a problem than amalgam or gold fillings.
Glass Ionomer Materials
Glass ionomer materials are only used in teeth where you do not bite down hard. There have not been many studies about how long this filling lasts. Newer forms of the filling may be more robust and last longer. Research is underway to evaluate the effectiveness of these materials.
- These fillings are the same colour as your natural teeth.
- They contain fluoride, which helps stop recurrent decay in the tooth.
- They do not have to be put in layer by layer; thus, they are simpler to put in than composite resins.
- They are direct fillings and, in most cases, can be done in one appointment.
- They cost less than gold fillings.
- They are not as strong and will not last as long as other fillings.
- They cost more than amalgam fillings.
Porcelain materials are the most used type of dental ceramic. They are hard and brittle. Porcelain and metal can be combined to make a strong, tooth-coloured crown.
Dental porcelain is made in a dental lab. Unless you have a bad tooth-grinding habit or some other problem, a combination of porcelain and metal can be used anywhere in the mouth.
- Dental porcelain is the same colour as natural teeth.
- These fillings last a long time.
- For teeth that bite down hard – like molars – ceramics are not a good choice as your fillings can break.
- They are indirect fillings, so at least two appointments will be needed.
- They cost more than most other types of fillings.