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Fillings

Fillings seal a small hole in your tooth, for example when you have a cavity, caused by decay. A filling prevents the decay (a bacteria-induced infection) from spreading further into your tooth and, if untreated, continue on to the sensitive inner pulp (nerve) tissue located in the root canal. Should that happen, you would need root canal treatment.

There are a variety of materials used to fill teeth, but the process of filling a tooth is similar regardless. Dr. Kernstock will review your options with you in selecting the right solution.

  • The first step is a clinical exam of the tooth with x-rays, used to determine the extent of the decay.
  • Then the decayed area of the tooth is removed, usually with a handheld instrument such as a dental drill.
    • Your tooth will be anesthetized first, so you won't feel any discomfort. If you normally feel nervous about receiving numbing injections, it's possible that taking an anti-anxiety medication or using nitrous oxide can help you feel more relaxed.
  • After removing the decay, the remaining tooth structure is roughened or “etched” with a mildly acidic solution; then translucent cement is applied to bond the tooth and the filling material together.

Types of Fillings

There are two broad categories of dental fillings: metal fillings and tooth-colored fillings. Each may offer particular advantages and disadvantages in certain situations.

Metal Fillings

Metal Filling.

Amalgam For more than a century, the classic "silver" filling, dental amalgam (an alloy made up of mercury, silver, tin and copper) has been used.  These fillings are strong and inexpensive, but are quite noticeable.  They also require relatively more tooth preparation (drilling) than other types.

Cast Gold — Among the most expensive restorative dental materials, cast gold combines gold with other metals for a very strong, long-lasting filling. It is also highly noticeable, which can be considered a plus or minus.

Tooth-Colored Fillings

Composite — A popular choice for those who want to hide their fillings.  It is a composite of plastic and glass, which actually bonds to the rest of the tooth. Composites are more expensive than amalgam fillings, and the newer materials can hold up almost as long. Less drilling of the tooth is necessary when placing composite as compared to amalgam.

Porcelain — These dental ceramics are strong, lifelike, and don't stain as composites can. They are sometimes more expensive than composites because they may require the use of a dental laboratory. While considered the most aesthetic filling, they can also, because of their relatively high glass content, be brittle.

Glass Ionomer — Made of acrylic and glass powders, these inexpensive, translucent fillings have the advantages of blending in pretty well with natural tooth color and releasing small amounts of fluoride to help prevent decay. They generally don't last as long as other restorative materials.

What to Expect After Getting a Filling

The numbness caused by your local anesthesia should wear off within a couple of hours. Until then, it's best to avoid drinking hot or cold liquids, and eating on the side of your mouth with the new filling. Some sensitivity to hot and cold is normal in the first couple of weeks after getting a tooth filled. If it persists beyond that, or you have any actual pain when biting, it could signal that an adjustment to your filling needs to be made. Continue to brush and floss as normal every day, and visit Dr. Kernstock's practice at least twice per year for your regular checkups and cleanings. And remember, tooth decay is a very preventable disease; with good oral hygiene and professional care, you can make your most recent cavity your last!

Dr. Thomas A. Kernstock is now accepting new patients!

Please call us at (989) 893-4381 or use this form to request an appointment.

Thomas A. Kernstock, DDS,PC's Practice

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