Dentists use various fillings to repair decay and other damage to our teeth. While there are limitations to the extent that they can use these, they do have the advantage of being cheaper and often less traumatic than bridges, crowns, implants or a tooth extraction.
Types of Dental Fillings:
While stronger amalgam fillings may be preferred where our back teeth are involved, dentists opt for composite fillings for our front teeth, because they can do more with them, and can tint them to match the color of your other teeth. There are three main types of composite fillings, namely composite fillings, glass ionomer cements and dental compomers – each have their own applications, which you should discuss with your service provider before they proceed.
Composite Fillings (also known as white fillings, and which replaced precious metal fillings in the 1960s) include a mixture of tooth colored plastic and glass silicone for strength. They are used for more than filling cavities, and can also help re-shape and re-color a disfigured tooth.
Glass Ionomer Cements are a more recent dental solution with a wider range of applications than basic composite fillings. While they can be used in place of these, other possibilities include attaching orthodontic devices such as bridges, pins, posts and core build-ups. Glass Ionomer Cements set quickly and are also ideal for temporary fillings in visible places. A further advantage is that they continue to release fluoride iron, which can be topped up by using fluoride toothpaste to encourage healthy teeth.
Dental Compomers are a hybrid of the two previous options mentioned, and introduced in the 1990s. While their fluoride iron release is inferior, dentists find them easier to work with because they can assume a more flowing form. Dental compomers are also available in a wider range of hues, and are better able to match the colors of infant teeth.
How a Dentist Fills your Teeth:
The first step that a dentist takes is to numb the tooth and the area immediately around it, either by administering an injection or applying a topical compound. Some patients prefer to avoid this inconvenience, especially where the nerve has been removed from the affected tooth, or the cavity to be repaired is small.
The next stage in the tooth repair process is to remove decay, together with any previous filling materials. This is usually achieved using a high-speed water-cooled drill. Following that, the affected tooth is prepared for filling, by rinsing it thoroughly with clean water, and drying it after with compressed air.
When completely satisfied that all decay has been removed and that the cavity is perfectly clean and dry, the dentist then etches the surface of the cavity with a mild acid, to create a roughened surface to which the filling will adhere. Following a further round of rinsing and drying, a bonding agent is then applied, which the dentist hardens by exposing it to a bright light known as a curing agent.
Now that the cavity has been cleaned out, the surface etched, and a bonding liquid applied to set even the tiniest bit of dust, the dentist just has to insert the filling chosen, harden it with the curing light, and then trim and polish the filling to achieve a perfectly bonded filling.