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Your First Dental Filling — What You Need to Know

Harvey Dental Group
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BY Harvey Dental Group

If you have never had a cavity filling in your life or have not had one since you were a young child and you suspect you may have a cavity, then it is important to learn all about dental fillings. Knowing what to expect when your dentist fills your cavity can help keep dental anxiety away. In addition, learning about your filing options can help you make educated decisions in the dental office.

Read on to learn about the types of dental fillings offered today and the typically quick and painless dental filling process.

Filling Types

There are two main types of fillings - direct and indirect fillings. Direct fillings are more common, and the direct filling process is used on small to medium-sized cavities. Indirect fillings, also called inlays and onlays, are better options when filling large cavities that dramatically weaken a tooth. Indirect fillings are sometimes called partial crowns.

The direct filling process is performed completely in your mouth, while indirect fillings are fabricated at a dental lab and then cemented into place in your mouth.

Filling Materials

Whether your dentist decides that you are a better candidate for a direct or indirect filling, you have many dental filling materials to choose from. Each has its unique advantages and disadvantages.

The five main types of tooth filling materials include:

  • Amalgam. This is a classic filling material that has been in use for many years. While strong and inexpensive, amalgam fillings are silver in color, so they are best for repairing molars. Amalgam fillings typically maintain their integrity for over a decade.
  • Composite resin. This is a very popular filling material because it matches the color of teeth. This makes it a good option for front teeth that show when you smile. Unfortunately, composite resin fillings often need replacement before amalgam fillings because composite resin is simply not as strong or durable as metal.
  • Gold. Although pricey, gold fillings are very strong and durable. Gold fillings can maintain its integrity for 20 years or more.
  • Ceramic. This is another tooth-colored filling material that is typically only used to produce indirect fillings. Ceramic indirect fillings are more costly than composite resin ones, yet they tend to maintain their integrity longer and do not stain as easily as composite resin fillings.
  • Glass isomer. This unique filling material releases fluoride into the area of the tooth surrounding it. However, glass isomer is not very strong, so it is only used on areas of a tooth that are not subjected to much force when chewing.

If you are overwhelmed by your filling options, then don't worry, because your dentist will help you make your final filling material decision using their expert knowledge and experience.

Filling Process

The direct dental filling process is relatively quick and painless. First, your dentist will numb the area surrounding the tooth with a local anesthetic. Next, they will use a special instrument to remove the tooth decay surrounding the cavity.

Typically, a dental drill is used to remove this tooth decay, although some dentists now use lasers to remove tooth decay. Finally, your dentist will clean out the cavity thoroughly and insert the dental filling material of your choice.

If your dentist decides that an indirect filling is a better option for you, then you may need to visit the dentist twice during the filling process. During the first visit, dental decay is removed from the tooth that will be filled and a dental impression is taken.

The dental impression is then sent to a dental lab where an inlay or onlay is created to fill your large cavity. When you return to the dentist for your second visit, the indirect filling will be cemented onto your tooth.

While no one wants to develop a cavity, cavity fillings are quick and painless. You also have many dental filling options to choose from that help you customize your smile.

Reach out to the staff at Dr. M. Dawn Harvey, DMD, PC to schedule a dental exam and cavity filling today.

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