Fillings are used to repair a damaged tooth due to cavities, breakage, and/or root exposure. There are a variety of different types of fillings, each having their own advantages and disadvantages. Dental offices typically use two types of fillings: amalgam and composite/resin also know as silver and white fillings respectively.
Traditional amalgam or metal fillings were more widely used in the past and can be replaced due to the disadvantages with amalgam fillings. Disadvantages for amalgam fillings include:
- unappealing, unnatural appearance
- may stain teeth over time
- temperature sensitivity because metal fillings conduct temperature easily
- weakened and possible tooth fractures if filling is large.
At Dr. Kim’s office we only use white resin/composite fillings. There are many advantages to white fillings such as:
- resists breakage
- does not corrode
- looks natural
- maximum amount of natural tooth is preserved
Below are four major reasons to get fillings:
Our mouths are filled with tons of bacteria, some good and some bad. The bad bacteria use sugar to survive and the by-product is acid. When bacteria uses sugar and release acid, the acid starts to weaken and melt away our enamel (the strong, hard shell around each tooth). At the beginning, white spots may be seen. This is because the minerals in our teeth are being depleted by the acid. At this point of the decay process, the decay can be reversed. Proper daily brushing and professional fluoride varnish and dental cleanings may reverse and prevent cavity formation.
However if a cavity forms, this is irreversible and permanent. A cavity typically does not cause any pain or sensitivity. If pain ensues, then a different treatment may be required such as a root canal treatment. To prevent a cavity from getting larger and deeper a filling should be done immediately. This not only saves the patient from a larger treatment, but also from more financial burdens.
The process of having a filling takes anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour. It is entirely dependent on the number of fillings and size/surface of fillings. Local anesthesia is used for most fillings, but some fillings may be done without any anesthesia. During the filling process Dr. Kim will carefully remove the decayed portion of the tooth and replace it with a white filling.
After Dr. Kim finishes a filling, there may be sensitivity to cold or hard food items. This type of sensitivity or pain is normal and should get better with time. Most patients will not feel sensitivity after 1-2 weeks, but it can last 5-6 months. If sensitivity persists, the patient needs to see Dr. Kim. The filling may need to be adjusted because it is too high causing the sensitivity or pain. This correction is simple and takes a few minutes to do.
2) Breakage/ Fracture
Sometimes a tooth can fracture or break off. If the tooth is chipped a little, a simple filling can be done to replace the chipped or broken piece. Dr. Kim will prep the tooth by slightly “sanding” down the tooth so the white filling will stick. The white, natural looking filling will replace the chipped area as if there wasn’t any breakage. Depending on the location of the chipped or broken piece, the filling can last for many years. If a filling cannot be used to replace the chipped or broken tooth, other alternative treatments may be recommended. Other treatments for broken or chipped tooth include: veneers, crowns, inlays, and onlays.
3) Root Exposure
There is a right and wrong way to brush your teeth. Come in to our office and we can show you the proper way to brush your teeth. The wrong way to brush your teeth is to go back and forth with your toothbrush along your gum line. This is a common mistake that many patient make and are unaware they are doing. Overtime, this horizontal back and forth brushing along your gum line may expose your roots by causing erosion. The tooth’s root portion is unlike the visible tooth (crown) section. The material of a tooth’s root is softer and doesn’t have a hard enamel protecting it from erosion and decay. Therefore, it must be protected if exposed. An exposed root that is not covered can lead to sensitivity to hot and/or cold foods and beverages and make you more susceptible to decays and further erosion. A white filling is used to cover the exposed root area. Covering an exposed root will prevent decay, sensitivity, and further erosion of the exposed tooth.
4) Cosmetic Restoration
Fillings can be an affordable choice for some patients who wants cosmetic treatment. Patients with old silver fillings, a discolored spot, or small chipped front teeth can use white fillings to fix these cosmetic issues.
Some patients with old mercury (silver) fillings want them taken out due to potential toxicity harm, and also for cosmetic reasons – possible staining and corrosion. If patients have many old silver fillings, to save some money they may opt to change their old mercury fillings on their lower teeth only, because it is more visible than upper teeth. Dr. Kim may encourage patients if the amalgam filling is old and he sees corrosion. But the ultimate decision to replace any amalgam fillings is the patient’s decision.
Fillings can be also be used an alternative to replace stains or spots on the tooth that the patient wants changed that cannot be altered with whitening treatment. The portion of the discolored tooth is taken out and a white filling can be replaced to match the rest of the tooth’s color. This is easily done in one visit and can take anywhere from 15-30 minutes.
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