A filling is a way to restore part of a tooth that has begun to decay (i.e. a cavity) and prevent it from decaying further. People have been filling cavities for thousands of years, and thanks to advancements in modern medicine, technology, and anesthesia, getting a filling today is virtually painless.
You may need a filling if you have a tooth that has a cavity, is chipped or broken, is worn down, or to close space between teeth. Dental fillings are completed in a single appointment and typically require some form of anesthetic. Here’s what to expect during a dental filling procedure.
1. Local anesthesia
During your visit to the dentist office, your dentist will first give you a shot of local anesthetic in your gum near the tooth they will be working on. The shot can feel like an uncomfortable pinch but is just a second of pain before you’re properly numbed throughout the procedure.
2. Remove tooth decay
Once you are numb, your dentist will proceed to remove the decayed area of your tooth. This is done by removing the affected enamel with a dental drill and shaping it in preparation for the filling material.
3. Placement, shaping, and polishing of filling material
For filling material, you have the choice of either silver amalgam or composite resin. Your dentist will fill the cleaned out cavity with whatever material is chosen and shape and polish it. Composite resin needs to be placed, shaped, and hardened using an ultraviolet light before polishing. Your bite will be checked and any modification will be made at that time.
Once the filling procedure is complete, it may take a couple hours for the anesthesia to wear off. Be careful of what you eat and drink during this time. Experiencing increased sensitivity is also common and should subside within a few days to a few weeks.
Amalgam vs Composite Resin
Amalgam dental fillings have been used for almost 200 years. Amalgam is a mixture of metals such as mercury, silver, tin, and copper. When the metals come together, they form a soft material which can be shaped to form your tooth back to its original form before hardening. Amalgams are very strong and generally less expensive than composite resin fillings.
Composite resin fillings became popular in the 1990’s and are made with a mixture of plastic and glass. They are more cosmetically appealing than amalgam as they are tooth-colored rather than silver, though they tend to be slightly more expensive and less durable than amalgam fillings. Composites need to be hardened with an ultraviolet light and the procedure can take slightly longer than amalgams but is still completed in one visit to your dentist’s office.
If you need to schedule an appointment at McKim and Platt Dentistry for a filling or any other dental need, call our office at (541) 485-8717 or contact us through our website.