Dental fillings, or simply fillings, are used to treat small holes or cavities in your teeth.
During a dental restoration or teeth filling process, a dentist removes the decayed parts of the tooth and then fills the space with a filling material.
Dental filling materials come in different forms, the most popular of which are the following:
- Dental amalgam
Widely known as silver fillings due to their colour, dental amalgams are mixtures of mercury, silver, copper, tin and zinc. They are resistant to wear, inexpensive and can last for around 10 years.
However, this type of filling is dark and, thus, easily noticeable. Because of this, it is not used for the front teeth and other visible areas.
- Gold fillings
Gold fillings or inlays are specially formulated and cemented into place during the procedure. This type of filling is tolerated well by gum tissues and usually lasts for at least 20 years.
For this reason, experts consider it the best filling material. However, it is usually the most expensive and requires multiple visits to the dentist.
- Composite resins
Also called plastic resins, this type of filling consists of dental cement made of polymer-based materials. With this type, you can have natural-looking teeth.
Composite resins are not usually recommended for large fillings since they may chip or wear over time. Also, they tend to get stained from coffee, tea, tobacco and other dark foods and beverages. Additionally, they only last for five to seven years on average.
- Porcelain fillings
Also called inlays or onlays, these filling materials are specially formulated and bonded to the tooth. They can be matched to the surrounding teeth’s colour and are stain-resistant.
A porcelain restoration usually covers most of the tooth to be fixed. It can last for 10 to 15 years. Like gold fillings, this type can also be pretty expensive.
The Dental Filling Process
Your dentist can tell you when you require fillings. But there are signs and symptoms that indicate you need dental restoration.
These include the following:
- Tooth sensitivity
- Throbbing or sharp pain
- Chipped or fractured tooth
- Dark spots on the tooth
- Food frequently getting stuck in between teeth
- Damage to previous fillings
A typical filling procedure can take less than an hour. However, it can take longer depending on the number of teeth that need to be filled and the type of restoration you want.
Additionally, replacing older fillings can take longer, especially if the materials have to be drilled out.
In this instance, the dental hygienist will clean out the cavity and old filling material completely before you can have the tooth filled.
Also, the dental restoration process usually requires only one visit. But you may have to return to your dentist’s clinic depending on the filling material you choose.
For instance, if your composite fillings have to be made using an impression, you’ll require a second visit for the dentist to bond the fillings.
Taking Care of Your Dental Fillings
Regardless of the type of filling you have, its lifespan depends heavily on your dental care habits.
When you take care of your teeth, you essentially maintain and prolong your fillings’ good condition as well.
Below are six ways to take care of your dental fillings:
- Practise good oral hygiene daily.
Brushing twice a day and flossing once daily are two dental habits you should practise consistently.
These habits help you have healthy teeth and gums. They also allow you to maintain your fillings.
Make sure you always brush and floss gently. Start by only using a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste with fluoride.
Brush gently to avoid damaging your new filling. Do the same when flossing.
Flossing gently means sliding the floss lightly up and down between your teeth. Also, avoid snapping or forcing the floss since it may chip the filling and cut or bruise your gum tissues.
Lastly, do not use toothpaste and mouthwashes with alcohol since they can stain the fillings and affect their durability and longevity.
- Reduce your intake of hard foods.
Avoid damaging your fillings by staying away from hard candies and foods.
Biting and chewing these products can put unnecessary stress on your dental fillings and even cause them to crack or fall out.
Additionally, avoid biting ice cubes and chewing on pencils, pens and your fingernails.
According to experts from a dental clinic in Dubai, this unhealthy habit can damage both your natural teeth and fillings.
- Avoid carbonated beverages.
Sodas, fizzy energy drinks and other carbonated beverages contain various sugars that mix with the bacteria in your mouth to create an acid that erodes your teeth and fillings.
This acid weakens the enamel as well.
Both regular and sugar-free sodas contain acids, which contribute to tooth decay. As such, it is best to avoid them.
You can keep your teeth and fillings in good health and condition by replacing carbonated beverages with water.
If you can’t avoid drinking sodas, use a straw to sip the beverage. And gargle with water immediately to reduce the acid remaining on your teeth.
- Do not consume hot and chewy foods after getting fillings.
After getting your fillings, avoid consuming hot, chewy and hard foods for the next 24 hours.
You can experience some tooth sensitivity after getting new fillings. Your discomfort will become more pronounced when you consume hot and chewy foods.
As such, stick to soft foods at room temperature to avoid or reduce your discomfort after getting your fillings.
- Maintain a balanced diet.
Keeping a close eye on your eating habits can help you prevent more cavities from forming and maintain your dental fillings.
As mentioned, avoid or reduce your intake of carbonated beverages and sugary treats. Also, eat more natural, nutrient-packed foods to keep your teeth healthy and strong.
Having a balanced diet also ensures you have a healthy body overall.
- See your dentist regularly.
Lastly, regardless of how many fillings you have and how long you’ve had them, visit your dentist at least twice a year even if you think you don’t have any dental issues.
When you see your dentist after the procedure, they will look at your fillings to make sure they are set correctly. They will also check for and fix any damage when necessary.
Additionally, regular check-ups allow your dentist to spot any possible dental problems you may have and treat them immediately to prevent them from worsening.
With these tips, you can maintain your dental fillings and overall good oral health.