Are fillings permanent?
No, unfortunately there are no fillings that perform over time as good as the original tooth. While a filling is better than having a decayed tooth, it is not a permanent solution. Over time, discoloration wear and tear may loosen the filling causing a recurrence of decay. It’s very important to schedule regular appointments with us to have the filling checked, as fillings are susceptible to leaks or cracks. When this happens, bacteria gets beneath the filling and, since that area cannot be cleaned, severe decay of the tooth will occur. Often, by the time you notice a problem with your filling, it may be too late to save the tooth. Regular check-ups prevent this issue. Your fillings will last longer if you practice good oral hygiene and avoid nail biting, crunching ice, chewing on popcorn kernels and opening packages with your teeth.
What happens during the procedure?
After you and our doctors determine that a filling is the best option, and choose the most appropriate filling material to use, the next step is to remove the decay. The decay will be removed using a dental drill. There are a wide variety of specialized burs used to insure your decay is properly removed without destroying healthy tooth structure. Our doctors will likely use two: one to drill the enamel and a second for the dentin—the softer material that lies beneath the enamel. After all of the decay has been removed, the filling material will be placed into the vacated space. Some filling materials require that the surface of the tooth is etched or cleaned, so that the filling bonds more strongly to the tooth. For a tooth colored composite filling, once the material is placed, visible light is used to cure, or harden, the material after which the tooth can be chewed on immediately. The tooth will then be shaped and polished to replicate the original anatomy, and adjusted so that your bite is ideal for proper chewing.
Is it painful?
Friction from the dental drill to the tooth produces heat which can cause sensitivity. The dental drill is designed to deliver a cooling mist of air and water to decrease heat generated in the tooth during the procedure. Local anesthesia can be used to numb the mouth before the procedure begins. Another option to mitigate pain and anxiety is nitrous oxide, also known as “Laughing Gas”. On many occasions, patients request both forms of pain management. There may be some that can be easily controlled with anti-inflammatory medication such as Motrin. Most people actually report a lessening in pain after the procedure, as the fillings “insulate” the nerves in the teeth.
Instructions following your composite filling
Your composite filling is completely set and ready to chew on as soon as any anesthetic has worn off. Some people experience discomfort after fillings are placed for a few days or up to a few weeks after treatment. Motrin, Advil, or Aspirin at the dosage indicated on the bottle work best to alleviate any sensitivity. If you had anesthetic and now the tooth feels high or hits before the others, please call our office for a possible adjustment of your occlusion.