If you need a dental filling because of a cavity, you are not alone. Tooth decay can occur at any age. According to Healthline, 92% of adults over 20 in the United States have had at least one cavity.
A dental filling is a common and relatively simple procedure to remove the decay and restore the tooth. It can be performed in the dentist's office and takes about an hour to fill one tooth.
What types of fillings are available?
Your dentist may give you the option to choose between several different types of fillings. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.
The earliest fillings were made of metals such as silver or gold. Gold fillings are still available today, but they are not very common because of the cost.
Silver amalgam fillings are made with a combination of tin, copper, and mercury mixed with silver. They are durable and affordable. However, they distort the color of the tooth. Some people have questioned the safety of silver amalgam fillings because they contain mercury, which is poisonous. Research into the health effects has shown that the mercury content is not enough to be harmful.
Composite fillings are made of acrylic resin mixed with quartz particles or glass. The result is a filling that mimics the appearance of the natural tooth without discoloration. Composite fillings do not contain any hazardous materials such as mercury. Though strong in their own right, they may not be quite as durable as silver amalgam fillings. They are also slightly more expensive.
Glass ionomer fillings
Like composite fillings, glass ionomer fillings are tooth-colored. They are more expensive than other options and not as strong. Their major advantage is that they help prevent future cavities because the glass they are made of contains fluoride.
What can you expect during the filling procedure?
A cavity is usually diagnosed with a dental examination and X-rays to determine the extent of the decay. You usually make an appointment to have the dental filling done at a later date.
When you arrive for your filling appointment, the first step is to numb the area where the treatment is to take place. This desensitizes the nerves so you do not feel any pain.
The next step is typically to remove the decayed tissue. This is accomplished using a dental drill. The space that is left behind is filled with the material that you and your dentist chose for the filling. Depending on the material, the dentist may use a special blue light to cure the filling. Otherwise, it will harden on its own.
With a silver amalgam filling, the dentist may ask you to avoid eating hard foods for about 24 hours following the procedure to allow it to harden completely. Otherwise, you can usually go back to your normal activities immediately after a filling.
Tooth decay is common, affecting people of all ages. By the age of 64, most adults in the United States have had at least one dental filling. It is a simple procedure with very little recovery that can be performed right in the dentist's office.
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