Most people will end up with a cavity in one of their teeth at some point in their lives. The easiest way of treating problems like this is for your dentist to simply clear away the decay and fill in the damaged area of the tooth. For this you'll require a dental filling, a popular dental restoration used to fix teeth with light damage and other problems caused by tooth decay. Fillings are also used to treat a range of other dental issues such as an incorrect bite (malocclusion) or to help you chew correctly.
Sensitivity is a common side effect of tooth decay as the enamel (which is the porous layer on the outside of your teeth) is often affected. Having a filling is usually enough to lessen the effects of sensitivity if not completely remove it once the filling has been completed. However, in some cases a filling won't be enough to correct the damage so other treatment options such as crowns, bridges or implants will have to be looked at.
The structure of your Teeth
Your tooth is made up of several layers, the outermost layer being the enamel. This layer is exceptionally hard so that it can protect your teeth from day to day wear. Below your gum line there's a layer of cementum. This substance provides much needed protection for the roots of your teeth. Underneath these layers is a layer of dentin, a hard bone-like substance which contains nerve endings. At the core of the tooth is the dental pulp, a tissue comprised of blood vessels, nerve fibres and capillaries. Your pulp keeps†your tooth healthy through its development and after development makes you aware of any damage to the tooth by pain transmission.
The Filling Procedure
Cavities are often spotted as you undergo regular check ups, so make sure you visit your dentist at least twice a year. In other cases, emergency visits to your dentist with toothache problems will reveal a cavity. It's relatively easy for your dentist to locate the tooth which has been affected by decay. Once the correct tooth is located, it'll be prepared and any decay will be removed through use of surgical tools or lasers. Once the decay as been extracted the area will be thoroughly cleaned before the filling procedure continues.
Your dentist will first isolate the tooth so that no moisture will interfere with the bonding process. Following isolation, your dentist applies an adhesive to the affected area before the composite material is placed. A special light source is usually used to activate the bonding process, leaving you with a natural looking restoration.
Types of Fillings
There's a couple of options in regards to what type of filling material you want applied to the affected tooth. Composite and glass ionomer are soft and can be molded to mimic the shape of your tooth before hardening. They also have great aesthetics and many patients who have had traditional fillings often return to their dentist to have them switched for better looking composite fillings.
The most popular type of filling is Amalgam however. This type of filling is made from a combination of metals such as tin, copper, silver and mercury. This has several advantages but amalgam fillings are renowned for their strength and durability. This makes them perfect at withstanding the day to day wear of grinding and chewing, especially on the molar teeth. Provided you maintain a good level of oral hygiene, your amalgam filling can last up to 12 years, compared to around 5 for composite fillings.