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What Are Dental Fillings?

If you require a dental procedure to repair a decayed, chipped, broken, or fractured tooth, your dentist will generally repair the area using a dental filling. A dental filling is a restorative material used to restore the function, integrity and morphology of missing tooth structure.

Types of Dental Fillings

There are many dental filling materials to choose from, including the following:

  • Tooth-Colored Fillings (or Composite Fillings): Many people prefer these fillings made of plastic silicon-dioxide material because they blend in perfectly with their natural teeth.
  • Silver Fillings (Amalgams): These fillings are often the most economical and strongest and last the longest, although they do not match the natural color of teeth.
  • Cast Gold Fillings: These fillings are as strong as silver fillings and last the same length of time but are markedly more expensive. Some people prefer gold fillings to silver fillings for aesthetic reasons.
  • Ceramic Fillings: These fillings are made from porcelain and can last up to fifteen years. They are more durable and resistant to staining but are markedly more expensive than tooth-colored composites.
  • Glass Ionomer Fillings: These fillings are often used to fill in spaces below the gum line and release fluoride to prevent further tooth decay. Young children most often get these glass ionomer fillings. These fillings tend to be more expensive and last up to five years.

What Is the Procedure for Dental Fillings?

Before the procedure takes place, your dentist or oral surgeon will use a local anesthetic to numb the area. Next, your dentist will remove the tooth decay using an air abrasion instrument, drill, or laser. Once all the decay is removed, the area will be thoroughly cleaned, getting rid of all bacteria. Your dentist can then safely fit your dental filling in the proper space. If the damage is near the root, your dentist may apply material to line and further protect the area from nerve decay. Finally, your dentist will polish the teeth that have been worked on to create sheen.

Preparing for Dental Fillings

Your dentist can first evaluate your teeth and the surrounding tissues with a consultation using a dental probe to detect cavities. They also will take x-rays, and then determine whether dental fillings may be the right choice for you. If dental fillings are necessary, you and your dentist will determine which fillings will be used for your damaged tooth area.

Maintenance of Dental Fillings

You will want to take care in maintaining your dental filling. Practicing good oral hygiene, including daily brushing and flossing, remains key. A well-balanced diet, minimizing sugar intake can prevent plaque buildup. Also, take care in biting hard objects that can chip or cause damage, especially to your composite filling. Use a straw or minimize your coffee, tea, or red wine intake to prevent staining. Finally, contact your dentist if you feel strange when you bite down or notice any sharp edges. Your oral habits will help determine how long your dental filling will last.

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