Cavities cause a great deal of pain and discomfort. You may think that your only option is to have the tooth pulled. Fillings are an excellent alternative.

What are fillings?

A “filling” is the common name given to a dental procedure that removes decay—a cavity—in a tooth and fills the space left behind with a synthetic material. Fillings can be made from many different materials, such as gold, amalgam, or composite tooth colored material. Your dentist will choose the material that’s right for you.

Why would I need a filling?

Leaving cavities in place is very dangerous to your oral health. Cavities will continue to get worse as time passes, and can lead to more serious dental problems, like abscesses, gum disease, and permanent tooth loss. Fillings allow you to remove the decay from your natural tooth, while still maintaining its strength and integrity. Fillings are also used in cases where the teeth have been worn down prematurely due to bad habits like nail chewing, and sometimes can be used to repair cracked or broken teeth.

Are fillings permanent?

No. When you get a filling, you will have to return to have the space refilled as time passes, due to discoloration or looseness from natural wear and tear. It’s very important that you schedule regular appointments with your dentist to have the filling checked, as fillings are susceptible to leaks or cracks. When this happens, bacteria gets beneath the filling and, since that area cannot be cleaned, severely decays the tooth. Often, by the time you notice a problem with your filling, it is already too late to save the tooth. Regular check-ups prevent this issue. Your fillings will last longer if you practice good oral hygiene and avoid nail biting, crunching ice, and opening packages with your teeth

What happens during the procedure?

After you and Dr. Andres determine that a filling is the best option, and choose the most appropriate filling material to use, the next step is to numb the area. The decay will be removed using a dental drill. There are a variety of bits for dental drills. Dr. Andres will likely use two: one to drill the enamel and a second for the dentin—the softer material that lies beneath the enamel. After all of the decay has been removed, the filling material will be placed into the vacated space. Some filling materials require that the surface of the tooth is etched, so that the filling bonds more strongly to the tooth.

Is it painful?

Local anesthesia is used to numb the mouth before the procedure begins. There is no pain while the tooth is being drilled or filled. There will be some discomfort as the anesthesia wears off that can be easily controlled with medication. Most people actually report a lessening in pain after the procedure, as the fillings “insulate” the nerves in the teeth.