Cavities can be big, small, dark, or light, and they can develop on any natural tooth. What all cavities have in common is that they must be addressed to prevent further decay. Cavity filling is the most common treatment option, but it can be scary for those who have never had this kind of procedure performed. Read on to find out what to expect when getting a cavity filled to assuage any fears before getting into the dentist’s chair.
Types of Fillings
The first thing dental patients should know is that there are actually several materials used in cavity fillings. They all serve the same purpose of filling in the space left behind after a dentist removes decay, but each is a little different.
Amalgam fillings are also referred to as silver fillings, and they have been in use for over a century and a half. The mixture contains different materials, which can include copper, tin, and mercury. The material is long-lasting, durable, and affordable, but most dentists recommend it only for back teeth.
Composite fillings can also be used to fill cavities. Composed of resin and glass, this material is tooth-colored and less noticeable, which makes it a good option for front teeth.
Glass Ionomer Fillings
Glass ionomer fillings are also tooth-colored, but they’re made of powdered glass. They’re most commonly used to fill exceptionally small cavities or those found in between teeth. Some ionomer fillings also release fluoride to prevent further decay.
Gold was a popular filling material for some time, but it’s the most expensive option. Gold fillings, which are usually composed of alloys containing copper, gold, and other metals, can last for decades, but they’re difficult to install.
Before the Procedure
Before a dentist fills a cavity, they will perform an exam of the patient’s mouth. It may involve only a visual examination, or the dentist might use an X-ray machine. Patients should let their dentists know if they have heart problems at this appointment so that they can be prescribed antibiotics.
During the Procedure
The patient’s mouth will be numb throughout the procedure, which means getting a filling should never hurt. The dentist begins by applying a topical numbing cream to the gums, then injecting an anesthetic. They will only begin to remove decay when the patient has indicated that the area is sufficiently numb. The dentist then fills in the hole created by the drill during the decay removal process, then makes adjustments as needed, and polishes the filling.
After the Procedure
Most dentists recommend avoiding eating and drinking until after the topical anesthetic wears off. At that point, patients may experience minor discomfort or soreness, but they should not be experiencing real pain. This may indicate a malocclusion, which needs to be corrected by a dentist. Increased tooth sensitivity is normal, but it typically improves over time. Complications from cavity fillings are very rare, but patients should let their dentists know if they experience:
- Worsening pain
- A fever
- Gum inflammation
- Severe sensitivity
- Noticeable swelling
- Get the Process Started
There’s no reason for anyone to just live with tooth pain from cavities. Even if it’s been a while since someone has visited their dentist, help is just a call away. Reach out to a local clinic to request an appointment and get the process of having the cavity filled as soon as possible to eliminate pain and prevent further decay.