If you’re an adult living in American, odds are you have one or more cavities.
That’s right, a 2012 study found that a whopping 91% of adults between 20 and 64 years of age had at least one cavity (AKA dental caries) in a permanent tooth. What’s more, over 25% of people haven’t sought treatment from a dentist.
It should be no surprise, then, when your dentist drops the news that you need a cavity filling.
Yet, knowing dental caries is no rare thing doesn’t mean you understand what to expect during a cavity treatment. That’s why we’re bringing you this guide to fillings: what they are, why you might need them, and what to expect from the procedure.
Don’t walk into your cavity filling appointment anxious. Keep reading for absolutely everything you need to know to feel prepared and put your mind at ease.
What Exactly is a Cavity Filling?
A filling is a substance injected into the tooth to replace decay and prevent infection. Depending on your budget, there are different types of fillings you can get. Aside from the price, the difference between these materials is color and strength.
- Metal (i.e., gold or silver)
- An acrylic/glass blend (AKA glass ionomer)
Of these, amalgam and composite fillings are most common.
Amalgam fillings are extremely strong, relatively inexpensive, and have a wealth of evidence to support their use. The filling material itself is a blend of metallic elements. For this reason, amalgam fillings are visible when you open your mouth.
Composite fillings are also called filled resins. Because they’re made from a mix of glass and quartz, composites match your natural teeth and aren’t visible when you laugh or open your mouth. While this isn’t as strong as amalgam, composites are more than sufficient for low-impact cavity fillings.
Why a Filling is What the Dentist Ordered
You may be wondering: why did my dentist recommend a filling in the first place?
Most people need fillings because they have cavities, which are a form of tooth decay. When bacteria sticks to your teeth in the form of plaque, it can break down the enamel. Over time, this creates a small hole in the tooth, also known as a cavity or dental caries.
Getting a filling treats the problem in two ways. First, the dentist removes all that decaying tooth material to prevent further decay or, worse, infections. Secondly, fillings close off the hole in your tooth to reduce the risk for future dental caries.
When you need a filling for something other than a cavity, it’s usually because of damaged or broken teeth. For example, if you suffer from bruxism (teeth grinding), your dentist may suggest fillings to repair the wear or tear.
What to Expect During a Cavity Filling
A cavity filling is a simple procedure that takes place at your local dentist’s office. The entire appointment takes around an hour, including the time it takes for x-rays and the filling itself.
Still anxious about your dental appointment? Knowing what to expect during and after the procedure may help put your mind at ease.
During the Filling Procedure
Before your dentist begins the procedure, he or she will numb the teeth, gums, and skin around the cavity. This will help lessen any pain or discomfort you experience during the next step: drilling into the cavity. Drilling is necessary because this is the step where the dentist removes the cavity.
Once the cavity is drilled out, your dentist will add the filling. From drilling to filling, the whole procedure takes only a few minutes.
Post-filling, your mouth will feel numb for a few hours. Since it’s just local anesthesia, though, you shouldn’t experience any problems operating a vehicle or returning to work. Once the anesthesia wears off, you may experience mild pain that’s easily treated with over-the-counter medication.
Aside from mild pain, there aren’t any risks or post-care life changes to worry about. You should return to your regular oral health routine, with any added changes your dentist might recommend. On the rare chance that infection, damage, or any other complications do arise, contact your dentist.
How to Prevent a Cavity in the Future
Fillings help prevent cavities from getting worse, but how can you stop a cavity from forming in the first place?
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, cavities develop when your teeth are exposed to acidic substances. For example, after you eat or drink excessive amounts of sugar and starch.
The minerals in your teeth are vital to keeping them healthy and strong. Yet, when acid repeatedly attacks those minerals, they start to die off.
If that happens, you may begin to see one of the very first signs of tooth decay: white spots on your enamel.
Don’t worry, though, because these white spots mean it’s not too late to reverse a cavity in its tracks. Restoring lost minerals through food particles in the saliva or fluoride toothpaste helps reduce the risk of developing a cavity.
That means if you want to prevent having to get fillings in the future, you should eat a low-starch, low-sugar, nutritious diet and brush your teeth at least twice per day.
See a Dentist in Lone Tree, CO
If you want healthy teeth for years to come, preventing and treating dental caries is absolutely vital.
So, instead of dreading your upcoming fillings, smile! Because you’re doing something great for your oral health that’ll pay off for years to come.
Looking for a dentist in Lone Tree for a cavity filling or preventative treatment? Contact us today or stop by the office to set up an appointment!