Think you might have a hole in your tooth? You're not the only one.
Tooth decay is common and most people will need a filling at least once in their life. Fillings are used to repair holes in teeth caused by tooth decay. Fillings don’t last forever and often also need replacement as they get old.
Dental fillings and what to expect
What is a Dental Filling?
Fillings are used to repair holes in your teeth that have been damaged by either tooth decay, minor injury, a broken or lost old filling or other damage. There are different types of fillings including composite (white) fillings, glass ionomer fillings or amalgam (metal) fillings. At Northcote Dental, we only use the most advanced filling materials to fix your teeth. Our expert dentists will work together with you to choose the best material to fix your tooth and get it back in shape.
What to Expect When Getting a Filling
When you come in for your filling, our dentists will usually numb your tooth using local anaesthetic so you won’t feel a thing while the tooth is treated. Once the tooth is numb, a dental drill helps to remove the decay and smooths out any sharp edges to prepare it for the filling. When the tooth is prepared, the filling will be placed inside the hole to seal it up. A blue light is sometimes used to make the filling strong and hard. The filling is then smoothed and polished so it feels and looks good as new.
Some Frequently Asked Questions on Dental Fillings
Tooth decay, otherwise known as dental caries or cavities or holes in teeth is caused by bacteria in the mouth. Everyone has colonies of bacteria in their mouth. There are ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’. The bad bacteria are Streptococcus Mutans and Lactobacilli. When they attach themselves to teeth and multiply in dental plaque, they can do damage. The bacteria feed on what you eat, especially sugars. When this happens, they produce an acid which dissolves minerals inside the tooth, making the tooth softer and weaker. This is when cavities can form.
Fillings are made of different materials. The most common ones are amalgam, composite or glass ionomer cement fillings. There are benefits and disadvantages for each type of filling. Your dentist will help you decide what is best for your tooth.
- Composite fillings are commonly known as white fillings.
- They are the most common type of filling material used today made of a synthetic resin.
- Pros: natural white tooth coloured filling (colour is matched to your tooth as close as possible), strong and durable, bonds to teeth, conservative (less drilling)
- Cons: takes longer to place, can sometimes have increased sensitivity, more expensive than amalgam fillings
- Glass ionomer cement fillings are tooth coloured fillings. The material was traditionally used as a cement to glue dental crowns onto teeth. Now it can be used as a filling for specific cases
- Pros: Easy to place, cheap, releases fluoride to help prevent decay, good for fillings on baby teeth or around gum lines, good as a temporary filling
- Cons: not as strong as amalgam or composite fillings, shorter life span, colour match is not as good as composite fillings
- Amalgam fillings have be used to fill teeth for many years.
- They are commonly known as silver fillings.
- Pros: strong and long lasting, cheapest type of filling, prevents decay
- Cons: not tooth coloured, doesn’t bond to tooth, risk of cracks in tooth, more drilling required, can have traces of mercury
This can be a difficult questions to answer as everyone’s fillings and mouths are so different. How long a filling lasts depends on the size of the filling, the age of the tooth, the type of filling and also how well you look after it. When a filling is very big, this means that your tooth is very weak. In general, bigger fillings tend to have shorter lifespans compared to smaller fillings. Maintaining good oral hygiene helps to make sure your filling has the best chance to last a long time. Brushing, flossing and regular cleans at the dentist all help to prevent further decay or damage to the tooth. Under good maintenance, you can reasonably expect a filling to last for at least 5 years. However it is not uncommon to see some fillings last for 15 years or more.
Sometimes it can be hard to tell if you need a filling.
Some common signs that you may need a filling include:
- Sensitivity to cold or hot temperatures
- Discomfort when biting into food
- Sensitivity to sugary foods
- Toothache or pain in or near a tooth
- Floss keeps catching or breaking when you use it on a tooth
- You can feel sometime rough or sharp in a tooth
- You can see a hole inside a tooth
If you experience any of these signs, it is likely that a cavity might be forming. The problem is often once these signs are noticed, it is likely that the decay can be quite advanced in the tooth. Our dentists at Northcote dental will be able to let you know if a filling is needed. The sooner you fix the tooth, the smaller the filling and less damage there is to your tooth. That’s why it’s so important not to miss your regular check-ups with us!
This depends on the size and type of filling. A typical filling usually is a 30-60minute appointment.