Dental tooth fillings are a restorative treatment, used to improve the appearance and functionality of teeth affected by damage or decay. The filling materials, which can be made from several different substances, help to even out tooth surfaces for more efficient biting and chewing. Dental fillings can last for many years and help keep the tooth looking and functioning at its best.
Types of Dental Fillings
Composite fillings are made of a glass or quartz filler within a resin medium that produces a tooth-colored material. Also known as filled resins, composites are often used in small to mid-size restorations, as they provide strength, durability and resistance to fracture. In addition, the shade of composite fillings is made to closely match the patient’s actual teeth, so that other people will not be aware that dental work has been done.
Glass ionomers are also tooth-colored fillings that are made of a mixture of acrylic and glass, and are most often used in young children, because they release fluoride. This material is weaker than composites and usually lasts less than five years before a replacement is needed.
Amalgam fillings have been used for many years and are considered strong, durable and relatively inexpensive compared to other materials. Although strong and effective, many patients do not choose to use amalgam fillings because the silver color can be visible while eating, speaking or smiling.
How long does it take for teeth fillings to settle?
Composite dental fillings are cured via blue UV light. They harden immediately and can be used right away after you leave the office. While the filling can support normal chewing, it is safest to postpone eating until the numbness from the local anesthetic wears off.
Will my tooth hurt after I receive a filling?
It is possible to develop temporary tooth sensitivity after getting a dental filling. This can happen as a result of minor irritation to the nerve root in the tooth during the filling procedure. Sensitivity is normal and controllable with minor food modifications and the use of over-the-counter medication. We typically do not worry about this subtle pain after treatment provided that it resolves in a week or so after the procedure. Tooth pain or sensitivity that continues beyond a week could indicate that infection has developed deeper in the tooth or that the filling is not fitting well with your bite. Pain may also indicate an allergy to the filling, though this is highly unlikely due to the biocompatibility of composite dental resin.
How long will my dental filling last?
One of the benefits of composite fillings is that the material adheres very nicely to natural enamel. This allows the dentist to repair the tooth without having to make major alterations to its shape. Composite is advantageous because it does not expand with heat and contract with cooling, the way that amalgam fillings do. On average, a composite filling is expected to last five to seven years. However, it is possible for this restoration to last much longer. Factors that can affect the lifespan of a filling include:
- Location in the mouth. Fillings placed in molars, the teeth that do the chewing, are exposed to a great deal of force every time you eat. These fillings may wear down more quickly than those placed in teeth near the front of the mouth.
- Diet. It is necessary to limit the consumption of sugary and acidic foods to preserve the structure of dental fillings. These same good habits are recommended for the prevention of cavities and gum disease.
- Oral hygiene. The care that you give to your teeth can also help support longer-lasting restorations. To maintain optimal oral health, brush twice every day and floss once every day. Also, visit your dentist twice a year. During these appointments, we check your teeth, gums, and also your restorations to ensure they are in good condition.
- Bruxism. If you show signs of bruxism, which is grinding or clenching your teeth when you sleep, your dentist may recommend a nightguard. This comfortable appliance reduces the force placed on teeth. It should be inserted every night after brushing and before going to bed.
Are dental fillings covered by insurance?
Most insurance providers will cover some portion of a composite filling. While it is important to contact your provider directly for specific coverage amounts, a common practice is to cover up to the cost of an amalgam filling. The remaining balance is the patient’s responsibility.
How should I care for my teeth with fillings?
Oral care habits after getting a filling can support longevity and also the prevention of new cavities from developing. To take the best care of your teeth, your dentist recommends that you brush twice a day. Spend two minutes brushing all surfaces of each tooth; front, back, and chewing surface. After you brush at night, floss your teeth. Use a flossing tool or flavored floss if it helps, but don’t skip this step. Flossing is what removes bacteria and debris that have accumulated between your teeth. To maintain your composite filling, it can also be helpful to rinse the mouth with water after consuming foods that cause discoloration, such as berries, tea, and red wine.
Can I get my old silver fillings replaced?
Yes. Many people replace their old silver fillings with durable tooth-colored composite restorations. Sometimes, it is necessary to replace a silver filling because it has cracked or has caused a fracture in a tooth. Whether your silver filling is failing in some way or you simply do not like the look of these fillings in your mouth, you can schedule treatment for replacement with composite resin fillings.
The Dental Filling Procedure
During the filling procedure, the tooth is prepared by removing any decay or damage in the area with a dental hand piece or laser. The surface of the tooth is cleaned and prepared for filling. The filling material is placed in the targeted area, where it will be finished and polished to match the appearance of the natural teeth. Dental fillings are placed during a single visit to a dentist’s office.
Some patients may require additional support after their filling procedure, such as the placement of a crown, implant or bridge. A root canal may be needed for severely damaged or infected teeth.
The dentist will discuss the filling materials and options with each patient before the procedure to determine the best option.
Our skilled dentist provides composite dental fillings in Santa Rosa, California, to restore your smile to full strength and beauty. Composite fillings are designed to blend in with your smile, promoting both the appearance of your teeth and your oral health. Give us a call today at 707-542-1532 to schedule your consultation with our dentist, Dr. Darren Gonzalez, and learn more about the benefits of composite dental fillings.