Chances are, you’ve had a filling, a dental procedure used to treat tooth decay. By sealing the cavity or hole in the tooth, it helps to prevent pain and infection and avoid further damage or even tooth loss. In today’s blog post, let’s focus on everything you need to know about getting a filling.
Four Different Types of Fillings
The four different types of fillings include:
- Amalgam fillings: Amalgam is a silver mixture of metals, including copper, tin, and mercury. It is often used for back molars, as the material is durable and lasts a long time. Note that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concluded that the exposure to mercury from these fillings does not cause adverse health effects for most patients, including those with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, or Alzheimer’s disease. If you’re concerned about the potential side effects from amalgam fillings, talk to your dentist.
- Composite fillings: Composite consists of resin and glass. It is tooth-colored, making it an ideal choice for teeth that are more visible.
- Glass ionomer fillings: Also tooth-colored, this material is made of powdered glass that attaches to the teeth. It releases fluoride to help prevent tooth decay.
- Gold fillings: These are the most durable fillings, often lasting over 20 years. The material is a combination of copper, gold, and other metals.
In short, resin-based composite and glass ionomer fillings are less sturdy than amalgam fillings. They also blend better with the teeth and do not contain heavy metals. Additionally, the FDA notes that resin-based options also cost more and may shrink over time, leading to space between the filling and tooth.
Chances are, you will need to have your filling replaced eventually, no matter what option you use.
What to Expect During the Procedure
A filling is usually a quick, in-office procedure. If you struggle with dental anxiety, talk to your dentist about sedation options, including general anesthesia.
Depending on where your cavity is located and the materials used for the filling, your experience may vary. In general, though, you can expect the following steps:
- Your dentist applies a numbing gel to your gums. Once its working, they inject a local anesthetic into your gum.
- Your dentist then uses a drill or another tool to remove the decayed area of the tooth.
- Next, they fill the hole in the tooth. If using a composite filling, the dentist cures or hardens the material with a special light.
- Finally, they polish the filing. If needed, they adjust the filling to ensure your bite feels normal. If your bite is off, this issue is called malocclusion. It’ll need to be corrected in order to prevent future pain or problems.
What You Need to Know After a Filling
Many patients wonder if they can eat and drink immediately after a filling. To start, your dentist may suggest waiting until the numbing agent wears off to eat or drink again. You don’t want to accidentally bite your tongue or cheek! Additionally, if you got an amalgam filling, you may need to wait 24 hours for it to completely set.
Once you’re ready to take your first bite, be sure to eat slowly and chew carefully, as a strong chomp may result in pain. Avoid hard or sticky foods, like candy, nuts, and ice, as these foods may dislodge your filling.
It’s normal to experience increased sensitivity to hot and cold after a filling. This sensation is due to minor nerve irritation, inflammation, or gum irritation caused by the drilling. The sensitivity should improve with time. If not, contact your dentist, as your composite filling may be shrinking and leading to tooth sensitivity.
Lastly, know that a filling may cause some discomfort. You can take over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen as needed. If you experience worsening or severe pain during or after the procedure, contact your dentist immediately. Other issues that may require an emergency dental visit include:
- a fever
- redness or warmth of the gums
- severe tooth sensitivity
Call us at 407.834.0330 to schedule your appointment today! Check out our Dental Blog to learn more about topics like restorative dentistry, dental anxiety, and more.