Dental fillings are artificial substances that can be used to treat a cavity in a tooth or to correct cracks in teeth. They are also used to repair broken or traumatised teeth. Tooth decay creates holes or cavities in the tooth. Cavities exposes inner pulp and nerves of the tooth which becomes the cause of infection leading to pain. The infection needs to be arrested to stop further damage to the tooth, and to neighbouring teeth. The dental fillings are used to fill in this gap in teeth.
What are dental fillings used for?
The following are the common reasons why dental filling are used.
Give back shape
Tooth decay causes holes and cavities in the tooth. Even when the cavities are cleaned of bacteria and root canal done, the cavities pose a problem because food tends to get stuck into the hole. Also, the hole hinders the process of chewing. When it is filled with the dental fillings, the shape of the tooth is restored.
Give back strength
Tooth decay causes teeth to become weak and susceptible to further damage. Dental fillings give strength to the tooth so that it can hold the shape and bear the pressure of chewing.
Stop bacteria to infect the tooth again
Dental fillings stop the bacteria from working on the exposed surface of the teeth. Bacteria generally cannot penetrate dental fillings and are unable to eat away at the at dental tissues.
To repair injury in teeth
Sometimes the teeth get broken. Because of falls or injury the teeth may get chipped off. These teeth are the exposed to decay because of lost enamel, or, outer covering of the tooth. The exposed nerves and tissues are very easy target for bacteria which will cause serious damage to teeth. The dental fillings can stop this damage by covering the chipped off area effectively.
To give back shape and strength to worn out teeth: Sometimes due to wear and tear, the teeth get eroded. There may be many reasons for erosion of teeth enamel. In such a case, the dental fillings can restore the shape and make them stronger.
Materials available as dental fillings
Today there are many materials to choose from to be used as dental fillings. The range is wide enough to choose according to your need, teeth type and cost.
Some of the common materials widely used today include the following.
These are also known as plastic or white (tooth coloured) fillings. This material is made with mixing powdered glass and plastic resin. It is used on top of the tooth because its colour matches the natural tooth colour and is almost indistinguishable from the tooth they are replaced for. This filling also releases a little fluoride which prevents the tooth from further damage.
Porcelain fillings are strong and are usually used at the back of the mouth for molars. Molars have big cavities and need strength to bear chewing process.
This is made up of a mixture of mercury and silver alloy. It is one of the very popular dental filling and used widely all over, because of its durability, and safety.
Glass ionomer cement and Resin Ionomer cement – both are mixture of glass with other alloys. Glass ionomer cement is mixture of glass and organic acid. It is self-hardening and is used for small fillings or for cementing porcelain and metal crowns for temporary restorative procedures. Resin ionomer cement is a mixture of glass and resin polymer with organic acid which hardens when exposed to blue light.
Gold and alloys are used for crowns and partial dentures. They are expensive but very durable.
Nickle/cobalt-chrome alloys are silver coloured and are used as a filing and as a cement to fix crowns.
Common procedure for dental filling
First of all, the dentist will examine your teeth to decide about the best course of treatment. After examination if the dentist feels that the best course of action is to use dental filling, he will decide exact areas where filling needs to be put. To ascertain the problematic areas, the dentist will use detection liquid or he may use x rays also, to be precise. The dentist will decide with consultation of the patient about which material to use for the dental filling.
On the appointed day the dentist will start with local anaesthetic to numb the area around the cavity.
Next the dentist will prepare the tooth and the surrounding areas to be cleaned and ready to receive the filling. The dentist uses hand held piece or laser to remove damaged tissues. Acid gel is used to clear the area of debris and bacteria. After cleaning the area in and around the affected tooth, the cavity is filled with the dental filling material.
To make the filling stick properly, the tooth should be free of moisture. To make the area dry, many kinds of adhesives are used before putting dental filling in the cavities. Then the bonding light is used to harden the dental filling.
The patient is then asked to bite hard to see whether he is comfortable, and the filling is not protruding.
Finally, the tooth is polished to remove any irregularity.
Possible complications of dental filling
Initially there may be a tingling sensation.
Sometimes the patient may be allergies towards the dental materials used, and may develop rashes.
In some cases, the neighbouring teeth may get infected because of injection or filling.
Post dental filling treatment
The dentist will have a meeting with the patient to discuss what happens after the dental filling has been successfully applied. The dentist will instruct the patient to follow a healthy oral care routine. This routine includes brushing your teeth twice daily, floss every night before going to bed and clean the mouth and tongue daily.
In addition, fluoride mouth wash and interdental cleaners will also help. In some patients the chances of getting cavities is higher than others. In such cases the dentist may decide to place a sealant over the molars. This prevents plaque build-up and helps in preventing tooth decay.
After the treatment the patient should visit the dentist for follow up on the treatment to see everything is OK. Regular professional cleaning is also required to keep the dental fillings in place and keeping the plaque and decay at bay.