What are fillings?
Fillings, sometimes called restorations, are materials placed on a tooth when permanent damage has been done to it. This damage can be from tooth decay (a cavity) or fractures on the tooth's natural crown. In the case of tooth decay, if the cavity is small enough, fluoride applications could help to re-mineralize the tooth surface. Remineralizing the tooth surface with fluoride helps by stopping the cavity from getting bigger or even by making it smaller.
Why are fillings necessary?
If cavities are caught early when they are small, fluoride treatments may be enough to treat it and prevent the tooth from further change. But if the cavity becomes so large that it has broken through the enamel layer of the tooth, the decay must be removed and the tooth's surface restored. This will prevent the cavity from affecting the underlying layers of the tooth before it reaches the nerve. Without treatment, a root canal problem can develop, which requires more dental visits and continued discomfort from the cavity.
If you are getting a filling, your dentist will remove the decayed part of the tooth. The dentist may give you a freezing agent, if necessary. Once the tooth has been prepared for the filling, your dentist will make the filling in one of two ways:
- Direct filling: The dentist places some dental material such as amalgam (silver filling) or composite resin (white filling) into the gap where the decay was removed. The dentist uses instruments to pack down the material and then hardens it with a curing light. Afterwards, the newly restored tooth is checked and adjusted. This type of filling is usually done in one dental visit.
- Indirect filling: These fillings are custom-made in a lab. A dental professional makes an impression of the prepared tooth and sends the impression to a lab. The lab technician makes either a crown (also called a cap) to replace the whole natural crown, an onlay that covers and replaces part of the crown, or an inlay that is inserted into the gap of the tooth. These fillings are then cemented onto the tooth. This type of filling requires more than one dental visit.
Brushing your teeth twice a day with a toothbrush and with a small amount of fluoride toothpaste helps prevent dental problems like cavities. Using floss everyday helps to clean between teeth and below the gum line, helping to prevent gingivitis and cavities.
Prevention is the best defence, so maintain good oral health and dental hygiene habits and visit your dentist regularly to help catch tooth decay early.
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