Dental fillings

When a cavity occurs, the dentist will remove the portion of the tooth that has decayed, using special materials to fill the respective area. It is customary for tooth fillings to be used for the repairing of teeth that are broken or cracked. If the teeth are worn down, either because of age or poor habits, such as biting one's nails or tooth grinding, dental fillings might be useful. In this article, we will discover more about dental fillings, including the materials from which these are made, how long they last, and how much you can expect for such dental treatments to cost. If you are interested in discovering more information on this topic, do not hesitate to keep on reading.

What are dental fillings?

Dental fillings refer to a type of treatment, in which broken or decayed teeth are repaired. As a first step, the dentist will inject a local anesthetic in the respective area, waiting for a bit for it to become numb. The decayed part of the tooth will be removed with special instruments, most commonly with laser. In choosing a particular instrument, the dentist will consider both the location and severity of the respective decay.

As the next step, the dentist will verify whether all the decay has been eliminated. The respective space will be cleaned of debris and bacteria, in preparation for the actual filling. If the decay has occurred in the proximity of the root, a liner might be used to protect the respective nerve. The tooth filling will be added, then the tooth will be polished. It might often be necessary for the material to be applied in layers, with a special light applied to harden each layer.

If the tooth has been damaged and a classic tooth filling is no longer a possibility, the dentist might recommend an indirect filling. This is a recommendation made for teeth that are decayed but not that damaged for a crown to be necessary. Initially, the dentist will treat the decay or remove old fillings. He/she will take an impression of the respective tooth and the ones surrounding it. The dental lab will use the respective impression to create the indirect filling. While this is being made, a temporary tooth filling will be placed to protect the respective tooth. The dentist will then remove the temporary filling and place the new one, which will be cemented into place.

Temporary dental fillings might be necessary in more than just one situation. The dentist might recommend one before placing an indirect filling or before the placement of gold fillings. It can be a suitable option after a root canal procedure or when it is necessary to allow the nerve to calm down. In case of emergency dental treatments, temporary tooth fillings might be necessary as well. It is important to visit the dentist and have the respective filling replaced with one that is permanent. Otherwise, an infection or other similar complications might occur.

What are dental fillings made of?

Tooth fillings can be made from a wide array of materials. The most common tooth fillings include porcelain, resin, plastic, gold, and silver amalgam. The latter is actually a mixture of silver, zinc, copper, tin, and mercury. Tooth-colored fillings might be used as well, including glass ionomer, a material which contains glass particulars. In suggesting a particular type of filling or material, the dentist will take into consideration both the location and extent of the decay.

Each tooth filling material comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. For instance, cast gold dental fillings are well-known for their durability and strength, but they are expensive and less appealing from an aesthetic point of view. Silver amalgam fillings are durable and strong, but they are associated with a higher risk of cracks and fractures. It is also possible for allergic reactions to occur, due to the mercury used to make the filling material.

Tooth-colored composites are pleasant from an aesthetic point of view and are easier to bond to the tooth structure. They can be used to repair a decayed tooth, but also one that has been chipped or broken. Nonetheless, tooth-colored composites are known for their lack of durability and expensive prices. Ceramic tooth fillings have become popular in the past decades, being appreciated for their durability and resistance to stains. Last, but not last, glass ionomer is used for certain fillings, such as the ones below the gum line. They might also be used in young children. Disadvantages of this type of dental filling include the high susceptibility to fractures and degradation.

How long do dental fillings last?

This depends a lot on the material from which dental fillings are made. Usually, dental fillings last between 5 and 30 years, especially if one has learned to properly care for the teeth with fillings. Amalgam fillings are expected to last for about 15 years, but it should be mentioned grinding or clenching one's teeth might affect their resistance. Composite dental fillings can last between 10 and 12 years, being quite durable. Once again, their resistance is directly dependent on your habits, including the ones related to oral hygiene. Other factors influencing the resistance of a filling include eating habits, tooth trauma, decay around the filling, etc.

Ceramic dental fillings are known for their resistance, with a lifespan of 15 years on average. Glass ionomer fillings last for around 5 years, while gold dental fillings are known to last for 20 years or more on average. It is important to understand that the mentioned lifespan remains valid in ideal conditions. The dentist might teach you how to adapt your diet, in order for the fillings to last longer. Sugar is the number one enemy, followed by hard foods, such as nuts or candy. Sticky foods should be avoided as well, including gummy candy, gum, and beef jerky. Last, but not least, keep in mind that beverages like tea and coffee can stain composite fillings.

How much dental fillings cost?

First and foremost, you have to choose an insurance plan that comes with dental benefits. In most situations, insurance companies cover the cost of composite fillings up to a certain price, with the patient having to pay for the difference. A single filling might cost between $50 and $150, if the material used is amalgam silver. On the other hand, a tooth-colored composite filling will cost between $90 and $250. For cast gold or porcelain fillings, you can expect the costs to vary between $250 and $4,500. According to survey done by the American Dental Association, without dental insurance, one can expect to pay between $150 and $200 for a filling (average cost).

In calculating the costs of dental fillings, several factors are considered. These might include: how many dental fillings are necessary, which teeth require fillings, size of the cavity, oral health. With regard to the latter, keep in mind that it represents one of the most decisive factors. If you are also dealing with tooth or gum infection, you might require additional treatments besides the filling, which will lead to additional costs to be covered.

The type of material remains one of the main factors influencing such procedures. Silver amalgam fillings are known for their affordable prices, with cost varying in accordance with the surfaces that need to be filled and the number of teeth that require filling. Resin-based composite fillings are more expensive than silver fillings, but the difference is not that significant. Nonetheless, they are more affordable than gold or porcelain fillings. Gold and porcelain/ceramic fillings are the most expensive and also the most resistant. In calculating your budget, you might have to factor in the following dental procedures: dental exam, X-rays, anesthetics, etc.

Caring for the teeth with fillings

To maintain the respective fillings, it is recommended to maintain the best possible oral hygiene. First and foremost, you should brush your teeth after every meal, using fluoride toothpaste. Do not forget to floss and use antibacterial mouthwash, preferably several times a day. The dentist should be visited regularly for cleaning procedures. If you have noticed that the respective tooth has become sensitive or cracks are visible, it might be time to head back to the dentist.

Keep in mind that after such dental procedures you might experience tooth sensitivity. The good news is that such issues tend to disappear on their own after a few weeks. If the problem does not go away, you might need additional treatment, such as the root canal procedure. Pain might appear as well, subsiding over time. Filling allergies are rare but nonetheless possible, and often seen in those with amalgam fillings. Before accepting such a filling, it might be a good idea to discuss your medical history with the dentist. Other materials might be used instead.

Are all fillings safe?

For a long time now, there has been a discussion involving the safety of silver amalgam fillings. As these are mercury-based, there were concerns about the health of those having such materials in their teeth. Even though there are no known studies to attest the danger of such fillings, there are recommendations for those to be avoided in certain people. These include: pregnant women, women who plan to become pregnant, nursing women, young children, people diagnosed with neurological diseases (Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis), impaired kidney function, known sensitivity to mercury.

When should dental fillings be replaced?

Even though dental fillings are meant to last, there might come a time when replacement will be necessary. The normal wear and tear process is often responsible, as all actions – clenching, chewing, or grinding – can apply pressure on the dental fillings. Over time, these can wear down, with visible chips or cracks. While you might not be able to determine when a filling needs to be replaced, the regular visits to the dentist can help you stay on top of things.

It might also happen that the seal between the filling and the tooth enamel breaks down, with bacteria and food particles gathering under the filling. Thus, additional decay can occur, leading to infection and potential abscesses. As a result, to prevent such issues, you will need to visit your dentist at least once a year. In the situation of large fillings or recurrent decay, you might not be able to benefit from a replacement filling. If the tooth structure has been lost, the dentist might decide to replace the filling with a crown.

Commonly asked questions about dental fillings

When are dental fillings necessary?

According to dentists, there are specific signs that can indicate a filling might be necessary. The decayed tooth might become sensitive to extreme temperatures and sugary foods. Biting or chewing might become painful, and food might become stuck in certain spots. The tooth can have a rough surface, with visible damage, such as chips or cracks. Dark spots might become apparent on the surface of the tooth. General pain can be present, while flossing might turn out to be more and more difficult. If the old filling has fallen out and the X-rays showed further decay, you might need to pay another visit to your dentist.

Which dental fillings are the best?

As you have seen, there are several materials that can be used for fillings. Typically, fillings are made from composite resin materials, as these are tooth-colored, resistant, and not that expensive. You might ask the dentist about other materials, such as gold, silver amalgam, gold, or porcelain, depending on your individual situation, he/she will help make the best choice.

Can dental fillings fall out?

Yes, that can happen, including immediately after a procedure. This is a sign that the filling has not been properly placed. With old fillings, the normal wear and tear process is mostly responsible. While this does not constitute a dental emergency, you will need to contact your dentist as soon as possible. Keep in mind that the exposed tooth is sensitive, with a definite risk of infection. Moreover, if time passes and the respective filling is not replacement, the tooth might become loose and fall out altogether.

Dental fillings can help you keep your teeth for as long as possible. As you have seen, these can be quite useful in case of tooth decay or subsequent damage, being made from diverse materials. Many of today's fillings are tooth-colored, so other people will not notice the difference. They are also made to last for decades, provided you take good care of them and maintain excellent oral hygiene. In terms of costs, the prices vary in according with the materials used and the need for additional dental treatments. It is recommended to choose a dental insurance plan that covers such issues and visit your dentist regularly, so that you can replace worn fillings in a timely manner.

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