dentist about to perform a filling on a dental patient

Nearly all adults will need a filling at some point. Fillings are used to treat cavities, as they repair and replace the damaged part of a tooth. Cavities occur when tooth decay causes erosion of the enamel which is the outer protective layer of the teeth. When the protective layer erodes, the tooth is exposed and vulnerable to damage and decay and cervices, pits or fissures are allowed to form. In most cases, your dentist will recommend filling the cavity to restore the structure of the tooth and prevent the decay and damage from spreading or worsening.  

In some cases, cavities are easily identified through a visual and physical examination by your dentist. Sometimes, however, cavities are not visible or easily identified due to their location, and in this case their presence can be confirmed by a series of x-rays. If you suspect you have a cavity or your dentist advises you that you do, it is important to seek treatment right away. Left untreated, cavities can worsen and lead to further damage, infection and tooth loss.  

There are several different types of fillings. The most common types are White (Resin Compound) and Silver (Amalgam.) 

White Fillings 

White fillings are made using a resin composite which is comprised of several materials. One of the main advantages to white fillings is that they can be made in a wide range of shades and therefore can be made to match the existing tooth colour exactly. White fillings are especially ideal for use in the treatment of teeth that are visible when you smile, as they can be formed and applied to be almost invisible to the naked eye.  

A white filling procedure begins with a thorough cleaning of the teeth and then the preparation of the affected tooth. Your dentist will use some tools to remove the damaged and decayed part of the tooth and then etch the surface of the tooth to promote a strong seal and adhesion of the filling to the tooth. The application of a resin composite requires a completely dry surface, then a type of bonding is applied and the moldable material is shaped to match the original shape of the tooth including its colour and natural grooves. The material is then “cured” or hardened with the use of a special light. White fillings are especially ideal for cavities that occur at the front of the mouth affecting teeth that are visible when smiling.  

Silver Fillings 

Silver fillings are made of something called Amalgam which is a combination of different metals, usually silver, tin and elemental mercury. Silver fillings are ideal for cavities in the molars or other areas where they will not be visible. While some people have concerns about the safety of mercury in amalgam fillings, however the amount is so minimal that is has been proven to be completely safe.  

The process of applying a silver filling is similar to that of a white filling. Once the tooth is prepared, the amalgam is packed tightly into the cavity. Over a short time, it will harden. The main difference between white and silver fillings is that the white resin composite filling is bonded to the tooth whereas the silver fillings are simply tightly packed into the cavity. It takes about 24 hours for a silver filling to completely harden, and it is important to be mindful of what you eat during that time, taking special care to avoid excessively hard, chewy or sticky foods.  

What kind of Filling is Right for Me? 

Your dentist will take several factors into consideration before advising you on their suggested course of treatment. They will consider the location of the cavity, the size of the cavity and extent of the damage to the tooth as well as your age. In most cases, dentist will use resin composite when filling cavities in children.  

When should I see my Dentist about a Cavity? 

Whatever filling you choose, it is very important to see your dentist regularly and practice excellent oral health habits to prevent further damage and the development of more cavities. Having cavities filled is a relatively quick and simple process, and in most cases can easily be done in a short amount of time. If you think you might have a cavity you should see your dentist right away in order to ensure the best possible outcome for your affected tooth and your overall oral health. If you want to learn more about how we treat cavities at Stonegate Dental or just want to chat about how we can support you the health of your mouth and smile, contact our Guelph Dentist’s office today! 

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