Cavities occur in over 90% of adults, and if you have one, our dentist will recommend a composite filling. We always recommend that our patients have their cavity worked on before it progresses into something more serious.
Prompt care can help lower your risk of infection, too.
Why We Prefer Composite Fillings
Initially, studies showed that the average lifespan of composite fillings was around 7 years.
However, a review of multiple studies show that:
- Proper care can extend the lifespan of the filling to 10 years
- People at higher risks of cavities may need filling replacement sooner
Even if composite fillings have a shorter lifespan than competing filling materials, they offer many benefits that make them a top choice at Lighthouse Dental Centre.
Composite Filling Benefits
The dentist you see is likely to recommend composite fillings because the material is:
- Durable and long-lasting
- Resistant to fractures
- Easy to install, often in one visit
- Colored to look like your natural teeth
- Easy to use for large damage or minor flaws
- Able to be matched to your teeth following teeth whitening
- Easily adapted to use for invisible buttons for Invisalign
Composite materials have many benefits, allowing the material to be a versatile choice for most cavities, damaged teeth or root canaled teeth. However, there are drawbacks to all filling materials.
Disadvantages of Composite Fillings
While there are many advantages to composite fillings, the key disadvantages are:
- The lifespan of composite fillings are traditionally lower than amalgam fillings
- Costs are cheaper than gold but more expensive than amalgam
- Due to the multiple layers of composite, they can take longer to apply
- During the procedure, the teeth need to be dry
- Isolation for wisdom teeth can be challenging resulting in wisdom teeth extractions with or without sedation
Despite composite materials costing more than amalgam fillings, the natural look and resistance make it a top choice at our office. You also can have the fillings placed in one visit to our office rather than multiple visits, which is a major perk for anyone with a busy schedule.
Composite fillings can also be used to cover the screw access hole for a dental implant.
Understanding the Composite Filling Procedure
For most of our patients following a dental exam, we're able to have you in our office for a single visit to have the filling placed. However, there are times when a patient's tooth has severe decay and a dental emergency, that we may require two visits to place the filling properly.
The standard process for a composite filling is:
- Diagnosing the cavity either through physical observation or with a dental X-ray
- We start by determining what shade of composite is necessary for your teeth. The shading is important because it allows you to leave our office with a natural, beautiful smile. We like to compare the shade before drying the mouth because it offers the most natural look possible for cosmetic dentistry.
- Once we've spent time matching the tooth coloring, we'll use a local anesthesia to numb the tooth and surrounding area. The numbing agent may take some time to take effect, but we'll check with you to ensure that your mouth is sufficiently numb before we begin.
- Finally, the dentist will remove the tooth decay by drilling into your tooth's enamel and remove the decay. During this time, we'll clean and dry the area where we're placing the filling to prepare the tooth properly. Depending on the damage to the tooth, we may need to shave the tooth so that the filling can be set appropriately.
- The next step includes etching the tooth and bonding it.
- Composite filling is then layered into the hole in your tooth. We'll use light that speeds up the curing process to ensure that the filling is adequately set. Since this requires a layering process, we'll need to cure the filling for each layer. It's a delicate process, but it allows for the strongest composite possible.
- Once the filling is in place and is cured, we'll examine the mouth and shape the filling. There may be some excess filling that we'll need to file down, and the dentist will spend time contouring the tooth for you.
- We'll then check your bite to make sure your teeth line up and eating will feel natural.
- Once we're confident with the bite, we'll polish the tooth.
Composite fillings are straightforward to place, so you can be confident that your tooth is fully repaired when you leave our office.
Time to Heal After a Composite Filling
Your filling will heal rapidly. However, when you leave our office, you'll still feel the numbing from the anesthetic, which will take some time to wear off. Once it does wear off, you may experience tooth sensitivity.
Sensitivity is completely natural since we've drilled into your tooth.
The good news is that your tooth sensitivity will go away in a day or two. For some people, there's a chance that they'll be more sensitive to cold for a few days or weeks, but this will fade away in time.
What You Can Do for Tooth Sensitivity
Tooth sensitivity is never fun, but it's an issue that is common with dental procedures. A few of the many things that you can do to reduce sensitivity:
- Avoid consuming acidic foods
- Avoid foods or drinks that are too cold or hot
- On the first day of the procedure and even the day after, avoid brushing or flossing around the tooth
- If the tooth is still sensitive, be gentle when brushing or flossing
- Switch to a desensitizing toothpaste
If you still experience sensitivity, you can opt to take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID.
Long-lasting pain is not typical, so you'll want to contact us if you feel sensitivity or pain that lasts longer than a day or two. You may want to call us if your bite feels off. A little composite filling may wear off in the first few days that make your bite feel more comfortable.
If the wearing down doesn't occur, we can adjust the surface of the filling and improve the bite.
Don't worry: it's a simple, painless process to adjust the filling surface.
Signs That You May Need a Tooth Filling
Regular dental checkups are the fundamental way that most people first find out about their cavities. However, if you haven't been to the dentist often, you may not know that you have tooth decay or a cavity or which of our services you could benefit from.
Ideally, you'll learn of the cavity early on in the decaying process so that the least invasive process can be used to treat the cavity.
If you're not sure if you have a cavity and you have a while before you come into our office for an exam, these warning signs are a good indicator that you may have a cavity that needs to be filled:
- Your tooth has an ongoing ache
- You feel a pit or hole in the tooth
- When you drink hot or cold foods, your teeth are sensitive
- The tooth is darker in color or staining
- Sugary foods cause sensitivity
Cavities that come on slowly may be undetectable until you come into our office because they may not cause any pain at all. In all cases, a cavity won't go away on its own. You'll need to have the dentist or hygienist examine your teeth, take X-rays and determine if you have a cavity or more serious dental concern.
Why Do Teeth Get Cavities?
Wondering why your teeth get cavities? Look no further than the foods you eat and your dental hygiene. Your mouth is filled with bacteria that are either good or bad for your dental health. The harmful bacteria lead to:
- Acid production
- Rapid tooth decay
Acid production increases among the bacteria when you eat or digest sugar. The bacteria will feed on the sugar that you eat and then cause plaque to form on your teeth. Plaque leads to the surface of the teeth being covered in a clear, sticky film.
If you skip brushing your teeth, the plaque remains.
Plaque will cause your mouth to become even more acidic, which leads to cavities forming. Traditionally, your mouth will keep the acidity level at 7 so that it's neutral and won't cause harm.
As more acid builds up, the pH level will fall to 5.5 or less.
What happens at these low pH levels? First, tooth enamel begins to dissolve and be destroyed. Eventually, if left untreated, the mineral loss and destruction to the enamel leads to erosion of the tooth.
Small holes in the tooth form, and these holes are cavities.
Cavities can eventually become larger and larger causing you to lose minerals below the tooth's enamel.
Saliva plays a major role in the entire tooth decay process. Your saliva is filled with minerals, such as phosphate and calcium. When you brush your teeth and the saliva washes over the teeth, it helps to add lost minerals back into the tooth to reverse the demineralization process.
Even with the help of your saliva and brushing, a cavity can progress to the deeper layers of your tooth. In severe cases, you'll experience pain and possible tooth loss.
Cavity prevention is essential, and it all begins with a proper dental hygiene routine. You should brush twice per day and floss at least once. Each brushing should last for two minutes with about 30 seconds dedicated to each quadrant in the mouth.
Whether working on baby teeth or permanent teeth, fillings can help prevent the cavity from causing more damage and help save the tooth.
If infection sets in or the tooth decays severely, this can lead to us recommending a tooth extraction. We'll do everything that we can to avoid an extraction because your natural teeth are always better than dentures or implants.
We recommend filling any cavities you have, developing a good oral hygiene routine and eating less sugar to prevent cavity formation and/or progression.
Our dentist may recommend multiple types of fillings, and they can include:
5 Types of Dental Fillings
1. Amalgam Fillings
For many years, dentists in North America preferred amalgam fillings. The fillings were durable and could last for 15 years, if you maintained proper oral hygiene. In many parts of the world, amalgam fillings are still widely used.
With amalgam fillings dentists don't need to:
- Thoroughly clean the tooth being filled
- Continually dry the tooth during the procedure
When a patient is on a strict budget, amalgam fillings offer a low-cost restoration. So, with all of these benefits, why don't dentists recommend amalgam fillings any longer? They don't look real.
Maintaining a great, natural smile demands a tooth-colored filling.
Amalgam fillings don't match the color of your tooth, so when you smile widely, people may notice the filling in your mouth. The materials used to create these fillings include:
Also Mercury is toxic, but the ADA states that these fillings are viable but more research is necessary to uncover if these mercury fillings cause adverse side effects.
2. Ceramic Fillings
Ceramic is another long-lasting filling type that can last up to 15 years with proper care. Porcelain is incorporated into the filling material to offer a natural, white color that blends naturally with your teeth.
These fillings are a good option for many patients, but there's a reason that they're not that common:
- Most ceramic fillings require a two-step installation process
- Ceramic fillings are more expensive than many other filling options
While ceramic fillings are a long-lasting option, we often recommend the next filling type to our patients.
3. Composite Fillings
Our team often recommends that patients use composite fillings. The fillings are customized, using various materials, to match the color and shade of your teeth. When someone looks at your smile or even at your teeth, the composite is almost unrecognizable.
The materials used in composite fillings are:
- Powdered glass
- Quartz particles
- Plastic resin
If you need a filling, composite material is often the best option.
4. Glass Ionomer
Glass ionomer fillings are made from, you guessed it: glass. These fillings are made to match your tooth color, so they look natural. Our dentist can shade the glass to mimic the natural color of your teeth as best as possible.
When compared to amalgam fillings, glass is superior because they're less noticeable.
The glass material slowly releases fluoride to help protect your teeth over the long-term. However, the main concern is that glass won't last as long as other filling options. Plus, when you need a larger cavity filled, glass ionomer fillings are not as efficient.
5. Gold Fillings
If a patient doesn't mind spending more money on their fillings, they may opt for gold. The benefit of gold is that the fillings can last for 20 or more years. You won't need to have the fillings replaced or be concerned about damage for a long time.
You'll need to come into our office for two sessions, in most cases, if you prefer gold fillings over the other types listed previously.
However, there are issues with gold fillings:
- Lab resources are intensive
- The installation technique is very precise
While gold fillings may be long-lasting, they're being used less because other materials offer a better filling option.
Contact us today to book an appointment!