What is a cavity and how did it happen?
Cavities, as their name implies, are decayed areas in your teeth caused by bacteria. You can sometimes spot a cavity, as the area surrounding the hole generally looks dark brown or gray.
Billions of bacteria live in your mouth. These bacteria build colonies on your teeth, called plaque. When bacteria interact with the carbohydrates and sugars in your food, they convert the sugars into acid, which then slowly dissolves the protective enamel on the outer layer of your tooth. Once the acid erodes through the enamel, the bacteria can then move in to the next layer of the tooth, dentin, which is softer and more porous. At this point the decay process speeds up and spreads deeper into the tooth, creating a larger hole, or cavity.
Brushing your teeth removes the plaque layer that bacteria are constantly forming, and flossing cleans food debri and plaque from in between your teeth, where your brush can’t access.
Why do I need a filling?
A filling is necessary to treat your cavity because if left untreated, the decay will continue to enlarge and will eventually enter into your nerve canal. This can ultimately lead to more serious problems such as pain and infection.
How does a filling fix my tooth?
The process of doing a filling first starts with providing good local anesthesia to the area to ensure that no discomfort is felt during the procedure. We then clean out all decayed tooth structure and make sure that the parts of the tooth contaminated with bacteria are removed. Placing a filling material in the tooth restores the hole back to its natural contours, and seals the tooth to prevent bacteria from getting back into the tooth.
How long can I wait before the cavity will cause pain?
The best time to have a filling done is soon after we first diagnose that a cavity is present. When caught early, the procedure is very simple, quick, and minimal tooth structure can be removed. Delaying treatment will allow the cavity to get larger, resulting in a loss of more tooth structure, a bigger filling, and more time-consuming appointment. If let untreated for too long, decay will eventually reach the nerve canal of the tooth, causing pain and possible tooth loss. Once the bacteria get into the nerve canal, a root canal and crown will be needed to save your tooth, which is more expensive and time-consuming. The bottom line is that you should get your cavity filled as soon as you can.
What is the filling made of?
The most popular type of filling material used by dentists are resin, or composite, fillings. Composite fillings consist microscopic glass particles suspended in acrylic, and match to your existing tooth color.
How is a filling placed?
After the decay in your tooth has been removed, a cleansing gel is then applied. Next, a bonding solution is applied, followed by the composite filling material. The filling material is molded to your tooth and is hardened, or cured, by applying a high intensity blue light. It only takes a few seconds for the materials to harden.
Once the tooth is filled and the composite has hardened, the filling is checked to insure the proper shape and look. At this point any necessary adjustments are made and then your filling is complete.
What to expect post-op?
Following the filling procedure, you might experience mild discomfort either at the site of the anesthetic or in the tooth itself. In most cases, symptoms will subside in a few days. To alleviate the mild discomfort you can take an over the counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or Tylenol. If your symptoms persist then you should contact our office.