Cavity fillings are modern dental miracles, allowing dentists to stop dental decay before it progresses too far and repair the damage that’s been done—with a completely invisible result. Often, simple fillings can prevent the need for major restorative dental procedures later in life. Cavity filling procedures are quick, painless, and cost-effective methods of fixing tooth decay, with plenty of options for materials, making them the preferred method for tooth decay restoration.
What Is a Cavity Filling Procedure?
Cavity fillings—or just “fillings”—are a method of stopping tooth decay stages early, wherein a dentist will drill out the affected tooth material and fill the resulting hole with a strong, corrosive-resistant material. Before the procedure, your dentist will usually use X-ray imaging to confirm the size and location of the cavity. Affected teeth are treated with local anesthesia injected into the gums around the tooth so patients are awake throughout the procedure, which is entirely painless. Once the dentist has thoroughly numbed the tooth, they will drill out a small section of the enamel and inner dentin to remove all of the decay-causing bacteria. The dentist will insert the filling material, which will bond to the tooth and cure, making it as hard as the rest of the tooth. Finally, the dentist will make final adjustments to the topography of the filling so your bite feels natural and aligned.
What Are the Types of Dental Fillings?
Cavity fillings are made from different types of natural and synthetic materials—each of which has its benefits and drawbacks. The most common filling materials include:
Composites are usually made of a mix of glass or quartz particles suspended in acrylic resin. Composites are white to match the surrounding tooth and are hardened using UV light. They often take a full 24 hours to cure completely, so it’s advised to not eat hard or crunchy food during that time.
Gold or Porcelain Fillings
Cavity fillings made from gold or porcelain are usually much stronger and longer lasting, but they are often considerably more expensive. Both are made in a lab from impressions of the cavity created by your dentist, which usually means you must return to have them installed at a later date. Both types of materials are ultra-hard and unlikely to crack or deform, but they are not necessarily natural looking. Porcelain can look more natural, but the color of the gold-copper alloy used in these fillings will stand out.
Dental amalgams are made from a mix of mercury, silver, tin, and copper and are generally stronger than most “tooth-colored” materials. The ADA has found no evidence that the mercury in these materials is a cause for concern, meaning they are safe and affordable, but they have a “lead” like color which some people don’t prefer.
How Long Does a Cavity Filling Take?
Cavity filling procedures are generally quick—usually an hour at most—but the length of the procedure can depend on a few factors. If you only need a single cavity filled then you can usually plan to be in and out of the dentist’s chair inside of an hour. Multiple cavities require more time to fill, especially if they aren’t close to each other.
Most of the preparation time comes from waiting for the local anesthetic to take effect, which can vary depending on how much is needed and where it needs to be used. Other factors that affect how long the procedure takes include the material used, as some take longer to harden in place than others, or may require a return visit to properly place.
Causes of Tooth Pain After Fillings
It’s normal for some patients to experience some mild pain or discomfort in the hours and days following a cavity filling. As the anesthesia wears off fully over the next 6 to 8 hours, you may experience some discomfort or a “pins and needles” sensation as the nerve regains full function. This can usually be managed with some over-the-counter pain medication if necessary.
Otherwise, you may experience some increased sensitivity for the next few days as your tooth adjusts to the new filling. It’s recommended that you avoid very hot or cold foods and liquids during this time, and some patients may find it necessary to chew on the opposite side of the mouth from the filling. It’s crucial to avoid especially sticky or acidic foods as the new filling sets, as improper care during this time can dislodge the filling from its socket, which will require
While fillings are an affordable and useful treatment for cavity restoration, it’s always better to do what you can to prevent them in the first place. Not brushing, flossing, or skipping the dentist can be bad habits that result in more cavities—and more cavity fillings. If you live in Northern Nevada and feel like you have a cavity, or it’s been more than six months since your last checkup, come see the professionals at Champagne Family Dentistry in Sparks. Whether it’s a cavity-filling procedure, a simple checkup, or advanced dental work, we have over 40 years of experience helping our patients get the care they need. Call today and schedule your appointment!