Dental Fillings

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    dental-fillingsOne of the most annoying conditions known to man are Cavities, which can be stubborn and extremely resistant to many types of dental treatment, including Fluoride. Once a cavity (tooth decay) is too far gone, the only option remaining is for your dentist is to clean out the bacterial debris and then fill the empty pocket.

    Having a cavity treated and filled may not be the most pleasant experience in the world, but it is a lot better than having to undergo an extraction and lose the tooth completely. After your dentist has determined that the extent of decay calls for the cavity to be filled, he or she will numb the area around the tooth with a local anesthetic. You will feel minimal discomfort, if anything, from the needle. It is just a short jab into the gum and that is it. Once the anesthetic takes hold, there will be no feeling at all in the problem area. That is when your dentist will get down to business and restore your tooth to a healthier state. Using either a drill or a laser, your dentist will clean out the decayed area in and around the tooth. Lasers are useful in filling cavities because they do not cause as much bleeding or discomfort as does a conventional drill.  Some patients, frightened of having the drill used on their tooth, are just more comfortable with a laser.  Some dentists feel that a laser does less damage to the tooth, when filling a cavity. There is, however, some dispute about this.

    After using the drill or a laser, your dentist will probe the tooth to make sure that the decay is gone and the area is clean. Once the pocket of decay has been cleaned out, your dentist will carefully shape the tooth in order to prepare it to be filled. Filling a cavity restores the function and appearance of the decayed tooth and also prevents bacteria from attacking the tooth in the future, by closing off the affected area. The “pocket” is the area on your tooth where the filling will be placed. The dentist has to be something of a sculptor, as well, since he or she will have to create “ledges” to keep the filling firmly in place.

    When the cavity is close to the nerve of your tooth, a special liner made out of glass ionomer or composite resin will be put in for extra protection. Glass ionomer is a tooth colored filling. The interesting thing about this type of filling is that once it has been put in your tooth, it releases fluoride. This helps prevent new decay from developing in and around the tooth.

    After the entire filling process is completed, your dentist will polish the finished product. Fillings are supposed to blend in with your other teeth and not be obtrusive in any way. However, this does depend on which variety of filling you opt for.  Should you choose to have a filling put in that is tooth colored, there will be a couple of more steps in the process as well as a bit more time spent in the dental chair. The tooth colored filling will be applied in layers. While doing that, your dentist will shine a light onto the tooth, that “cures” or hardens each layer. While he works, the dentist will trim off any excess filling, so that everything will look and feel natural.

    There are many different materials available for dental fillings. Various factors come into play when it is time to choose a filling. Cost and insurance coverage is always paramount. What type of filling will your budget allow? Will your insurance cover it? if you are covered, up to what amount is your provider willing to pay?

    The exact location on your tooth and the extent of the cavity should also be taken into consideration. Some fillings are better suited for your back teeth, both for practical and aesthetic reasons. If the decay is really bad and progressed all the way down to the root, then you may be more limited in your choice of potential fillings. You may also be allergic to certain materials that are used in some fillings. Your dentist will review your medical history for any known allergies.

    Talk with your dental professional and listen to his or her recommendations. Be honest and tell the dentist what kind of fillings you are more comfortable with. Your dentist will tell you if the filling you have chosen is doable from a medical perspective.

    Cavities are not the only reason that you may need to get a filling. Accidents happen and fillings are also utilized to repair cracked or broken teeth. When participating in sports, it is always a good idea to wear a mouth guard, even if you just play baseball or hockey for fun on the weekends. If you are a tooth grinder, then you can probably expect to have to get a filling or two, should your teeth become badly worn down.

    Dental fillings fall into two general categories: Dental Amalgam or Resin Composite.

    Amalgam fillings are more commonly referred to as silver fillings. They are a mixture of mercury, silver, tin and copper.  Because it is so very strong and durable, amalgam is used to fill cavities that are located in your back teeth. Relatively of its low cost, Amalgam is one of the most popular choices for dental fillings in America. Mercury is utilized to bind all of the other ingredients together. Silver fillings are almost never used on front teeth, because the silver color is conspicuous. If you are worried about exposure to Mercury, you shouldn’t be concerned.  The amount of mercury contained in an average filling is too minute to affect your health.

    With good oral hygiene, silver fillings can last up to 14 or 15 years. By and large, they have a well-deserved reputation of outlasting many other types of restorations. Another advantage of silver fillings is that the process can be completed in one visit, depending on the amount of decay and damage to the tooth in question.

    Gold Fillings are made out of gold alloy, which basically means that they are gold, mixed with other me Gold fillings can take two or more visits to the dentist’s’ office, to place in your mouth. That is the only minor drawback. Many patients opt for gold fillings, simply because the color looks better than silver fillings. Gold does last a lot longer than most of the other options available, usually between fifteen and twenty years. Gold is also used in dental crowns. Gold has been coveted throughout the ages, in every civilization, for both its’ value and appearance. Gold does have its’ uses, but it is way behind silver in terms of popularity with patients who need a cavity filled.

    Ceramics are another option that you and your dentist might consider. Ceramics are made of Porcelain and are used for inlays and onlays as well as crowns and veneers. They are also used in dental implants.

    Porcelain ceramics are tooth colored, so they have tremendous cosmetic appeal. Their surface is much more resistant to stains from food, coffee and other beverages than composite resin. However, ceramic fillings tend to be quite brittle and can be easily damaged. You have to exercise some caution when eating. If you chomp down on something hard enough you will break the filling.

    Ceramics are somewhere in the middle when it comes to longevity. Because they can be easily damaged, their lifespan can vary according to the patient’s oral hygiene and other unforeseen factors.

    Composite Resin is made up out of plastic and extremely fine, ground up glass particles. Composite fillings bond directly onto the tooth. This technique strengthens the tooth immeasurably. Over the last decade, improvements have been made in the materials used, so composite resin fillings, in some ways, surpass the benefits provided by the traditional silver Amalgam filling. Composite resin is rapidly catching up to silver in terms of popularity.

    These fillings are utilized mainly for the front teeth. There are two kinds of composite resin fillings; Direct and Indirect.

    Direct fillings are put in place by your dentist, usually in one office visit. As far as indirect fillings go, your dentist will first take an impression of the tooth. Great inroads have been made regarding dental impressions. You may no longer have to bite down into a soft, rather nauseating mixture to have a mold of your teeth done. Some dentists are now using digital impressions. A tiny camera device is held next to the tooth and very clear and precise digital pictures are sent to a computer. No matter how the impression is done, it will be sent to a dental lab, where the technician will make the filling based on the mold or digital impression. Your dentist will then place the filling in your teeth, on a follow-up visit.

    An Inlay filling is placed inside the tooth. An Onlay simply means that the filling covers your tooth. Onlays are used for teeth that have suffered from a great deal of damage and/or decay. Patients tend to favor the composite resin fillings because they require less drilling than amalgam fillings. Your dentist doesn’t have to drill as much to shape the pocket on your tooth that will eventually hold the filling. The bonding process holds the composite resin in the tooth.

    With so many options available, there is no reason to avoid going to the dentist if you have even a minor cavity that does not bother you that much.  After all, especially when it comes to your health, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.


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