Dental fillings are materials used in restorative dentistry to resemble the natural appearance of your teeth. They are placed inside cavities to prevent further decay and restore your tooth’s appearance. For cosmetic purposes, fillings modify the color, shape, and size of your teeth. Dental fillings can be installed in any part of your mouth.

At The Downey Dentist, we have the requisite expertise in cosmetic and restorative dentistry. Do you have a toothache or a cavity? Are you apprehensive about the appearance of your teeth? Do not postpone treatment because your cavity will worsen. We offer custom-made dental fillings to treat tooth decay in addition to restoring the healthy appearance of your teeth or tooth. Our Dentists based in Downey, California, always ensure that every patient has a comfortable dentistry experience whenever they seek our dental services.

Understanding Dental Fillings

A dental filling is a form of restorative dentistry to repair your decayed, broken or cracked teeth. Fillings are also used to repair teeth surfaces which are worn out or damaged due to misuse such as tooth grinding or nail-biting. The decayed or damaged section is extracted and replaced with a filling to preserve the strength of the tooth. Additionally, dental fillings can be used to rectify teeth gaps and slightly curved or chipped teeth.

Enamel loss is the main element of tooth decay and may cause tooth sensitivity. Filling materials are used to even out your tooth surfaces for improved chewing or biting. By using an appropriate dental filling, such sensitivity can be improved or eliminated. Dental fillings can withstand the pressure of constant chewing, therefore, you do not need to change what or how you eat.

When you are having your cavity filled, the decision on the materials and treatments to be used is your sole right. However, to make the right choice, you must consult with your dentist. The materials used are based on:

  • The location and size of your cavity
  • Cosmetic factors
  • The durability of the filling
  • Out-of-pocket costs and insurance coverage

The Dental Filling Procedure

The dental filling procedure has three main phases.

  1. Preparation for Treatment

    Tooth decay is one of the most common oral health issues that are discovered during scheduled cleanings and exams. First, your dentist will check your tooth with a dental probe and take an X-ray to establish the precise position and extent of decay.

    After it is established that you need a filling, your dentist will guide you on the available options to fill and seal the cavity to avoid more decay and damage. The best filling option will be determined by:

    • Your medical history
    • Location of the cavity
    • Your biting force
    • Your aesthetic needs
    • Cost of filling
    • The durability of the filling
    • Your preferences
    • Number of required dental visits
  2. Filling your Tooth

    Your dentist will put in the dental filling in four steps.

    1. Your dentist will use local anesthesia to numb the area surrounding the tooth. If necessary and for your comfort, the dentist may also administer sedation dentistry. If you get sedated, you cannot drive after the procedure;

    2. Your dentist removes the decayed or damaged material with a dental laser, hand drill or an air abrasion instrument. The instrument used depends on the extent of decay, the location of your tooth, your dentist’s training, their level of comfort and the investment made on dental equipment;

    3. The area is cleaned to remove debris or bacteria. If the decay is too close to the root, your dentist will protect your nerve using a liner made from composite resin, glass ionomer or another material;

    4. Your dentist will apply the filling material, then shape it to duplicate the original shape of your tooth. If you are using tooth-colored fillings, the dentist will apply the material in layers. An LED light is used to harden each layer. The material is then shaped, trimmed and polished.

  3. Recovery and Post-filling Care

    Your dental filling should last for several years. However, you must maintain regular dental visits for minor adjustments every once in a while.

    After a filling is placed in your tooth, you must contact your dentist for an immediate appointment if you notice:

    • A crack in your filling
    • A missing piece of filling
    • A sharp pain
    • Extreme tooth sensitivity
    • A leaking filling

Types of Dental Fillings

While some dental fillings are more popular than others, your dentist will help you to make the right choice of material depending on cost and durability. Here are the different types of dental fillings available.

Silver Amalgam Fillings

Silver amalgam fillings have been used for a long time by dentists. Also known as silver-colored fillings, they are an alloy of silver, tin, copper, mercury, and sometimes, zinc.

Advantages of amalgam fillings

  • Strength: They can withstand pressure from chewing
  • Durability: They have a lifespan of between 10 – 15 years and outlast tooth-colored fillings
  • Cost: They are cheaper than composite fillings

Disadvantages of silver amalgam fillings

  • Poor aesthetic appeal: Silver-colored fillings do not match the natural color of your teeth
  • Destruction of healthy tooth structure: During filling, healthy sections of the tooth are removed to accommodate the filling
  • Discoloration: Amalgam fillings usually cause a grayish shade to the surrounding teeth
  • More cracks and fractures: Teeth usually expand and contract after contact with cold or hot liquids which eventually causes cracks and fractures. Compared to other types of fillings, silver amalgams expand and contract more which increases tooth cracks and fractures
  • Allergic reactions: Approximately 1% of people are allergic to the mercury in amalgam fillings

Gold Fillings

Use of gold has been practiced in dentistry for over 1000 years. Gold fillings are a composite of gold, copper and several other metals. They are usually custom made in a lab then cemented at the dentist’s office.

Advantages of gold fillings

  • Gum tolerance: They are highly tolerated by gum tissue and rarely cause allergic reactions
  • Durability: Gold fillings do not corrode and can last more than 15 years
  • Strength: They are strong enough to withstand bite and chewing forces

Disadvantages of gold fillings

  • Cost: Gold fillings are more expensive than other filling materials. They can cost up to 10 times more than silver amalgam fillings
  • Extra office visits: To have the fillings placed, you will need two or more office visits
  • The possibility of galvanic shock: Although it is rare, placing a gold filling in contact with a silver amalgam filling may cause galvanic shock. The interaction between saliva and the metals produces an electric current which is characterized by a sharp pain
  • Aesthetics: Although they are more appealing to some patients than silver amalgam fillings, gold fillings lack the natural tooth-colored look

Composite Fillings

These are the most widely used type of fillings. Also known as tooth-colored fillings, they are a combination of quartz or glass filler and resin. They match your natural tooth color, therefore, they are unnoticeable. Your dentist sculpts the resin in the right place, one layer at a time, then uses high power LED light to harden it. They can be used as small or midsize restorative fillings for fractured, broken or chipped teeth, which experience mild pressure from chewing.

Advantages of composite fillings

  • Aesthetics: You can match the natural color of your existing teeth to that of composite fillings. Composites are especially suitable for use in the front teeth or the visible parts of your teeth
  • Bonding with the tooth structure: Composite fillings bond to your tooth structure thereby, providing extra support
  • Versatility: Not only are composite fillings used for decayed teeth, but they can also be applied to worn, chipped or broken teeth
  • Tooth-saving preparation: When removing decay, composites require less tooth structure to be removed compared to amalgam fillings

Disadvantages of composites

  • Lack of durability: Composite fillings last for slightly more than 5 years. Additionally, they cannot withstand pressure from chewing especially if placed in large cavities
  • More application time: Due to the application process, composite fillings take about 20 minutes longer to place than amalgam fillings
  • Cost: Composites cost twice more than amalgam fillings
  • Chipping: Composite fillings can chip off your tooth depending on the location
  • Extra office visits: If you are having composites used for on-lays or in-lays, you will have to visit the dentist’s office more than once

Ceramic Fillings

They are mostly made of porcelain and often used as on-lays or in-lays. They are made in a lab then later fastened to your tooth at the dentist’s office.

Advantages of ceramic fillings

  • Durability: Ceramic fillings last beyond 15 years
  • Aesthetics: The color of porcelain fillings resembles the natural enamel of your tooth This makes these fillings remain unnoticed and more desirable
  • Toxin-free: The fillings are not only non-toxic but also metal and mercury-free

Disadvantages of ceramic fillings

  • Cost: They are more expensive than silver amalgam and composite fillings. Their cost is similar to that of gold fillings
  • Additional office visits: Fitting ceramic fillings requires you to visit the dentist twice or more
  • Weakness: Ceramic fillings are susceptible to fractures when exposed to impact or tension. Their strength is based on their thickness and their ability to bond with the tooth
  • Damage to opposing teeth: Although ceramic fillings are resistant to wear, they can erode opposing teeth if the porcelain exterior becomes rough

Glass Ionomer Fillings

These are tooth-colored fillings, made of acrylic combined with fine glass powders. They are mostly applied as fillings in non-load bearing areas, below the gum line, and in young children.

Advantages of glass ionomers

  • Extra tooth protection: They release some fluoride which protects your tooth from further decay
  • Aesthetic appeal: They imitate the natural color of your teeth but without the translucency of natural enamel
  • High tolerance by patients: The possibility of you experiencing an allergic reaction to glass ionomers is very low

Disadvantages of ionomer fillings

  • Lack of durability: Glass ionomers last for about 5 years only
  • Cost: They are more expensive than silver amalgam fillings
  • Weakness: They are susceptible to wear and fractures and cannot withstand pressure from chewing

Benefits of Dental Fillings

Dental fillings have several benefits for you. These include:

  • Easy repair in case of damage
  • No health risks or side-effects
  • White filling bonding can restore your original tooth strength by almost 95%
  • The filling hardens completely in just a few seconds
  • Fillings fit in perfectly with the rest of your teeth

Dental Fillings for Children

Your child uses teeth that will eventually shed and be replaced by adult teeth. Unfortunately, they can get cavities even with good oral hygiene. It is critical to preserving your child’s teeth until the adult teeth lead them out of the gums. This ensures that adult teeth grow properly and with enough space.

Although baby teeth are temporary, they are the only ones your child will use until their adult teeth grow. Your dentist will, therefore, remove the cavities and fill up the tooth to safeguard your child’s dental health.

Ceramic and gold fillings are rarely used for children. Instead, children’s fillings are made of either metal or white composite. Metal fillings are more popular since they are cheaper than composite and take less time to fit. Your child may not like the appearance of metal fillings but they are a cost-effective option for temporary teeth.

Children’s dental fillings are mostly necessitated by tooth decay and trauma. In case your child's tooth is decayed, it will be drilled and then filled. If the decay recurs, the dentist will replace the filling to repair the new cavity. Trauma may cause cracks which may require filling. Other problems that may necessitate dental fillings for your child include misshaped, underdeveloped and chipped teeth.

During the filling process, your doctor may use laughing gas to reduce your child’s anxiety and discomfort. As an alternative, your doctor may use a sedative administered orally. Multiple cavities can be filled at once or one at a time. This depends on whether your child is comfortable sitting in the dentist’s chair for long. Your dentist wants the best for your child even if it means multiple appointments.

If you feel anxious about your child’s dental filling, we will help you relax. We will create a plan that works for you and your child. Our goal is to preserve your child’s first teeth until their adult teeth grow. It is imperative that you keep all your child’s dental appointments and observe oral hygiene to minimize the need for fillings.

Frequently Asked Questions About Dental Fillings

Do silver amalgam fillings cause mercury poisoning?

Silver amalgams release mercury vapor in low levels that can be absorbed in the lungs. However, the mercury remains bound safely inside the alloy and numerous studies have not shown any evidence linking health problems to amalgam fillings. In addition, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers amalgam fillings safe for use by adults and children older than 6 years. FDA also recommends that if you are expectant or a parent of a child below 6 years, you should discuss your concerns with your dentist, and we will be happy to offer you other alternatives.

What are temporary fillings and why would I need them?

Temporary fillings are not made to last. They normally wear out, fracture or fall out in less than a month. If you keep temporary fillings longer, your tooth could become infected. Temporary fillings are generally used when:

  • Your dental fillings require more than a single appointment
  • You have had a root canal procedure
  • The pulp is irritated and your tooth’s nerve needs to calm down
  • You need emergency dental care

Will I feel any pain after a dental filling?

After the filling, your tooth will often remain sensitive to cold and heat for around two days. The pain is usually very mild and you should be pain-free and back to normal within three days.

How do I care for my dental fillings?

After your procedure, your dentist will advise you on how to prevent decay in other teeth and from forming around or under the filling. These preventive measures include:

  • Using an interdental cleaner or a dental floss once a day
  • Brushing twice daily using a fluoride toothpaste
  • Keeping dental appointments for teeth cleaning and routine check-ups
  • If your risk of caries is high, sealants can be set on your molars to guard against decay and build-up of plaque.
  • Using an antibacterial mouthwash, a fluoride mouth rinse or fluoridated water at least once a day
  • Maintaining a balanced diet with limited sugar intake and little or no snacking between meals

Contact a Dental Fillings Specialist Near Me

If you or your family member are in need of dental fillings, it is wise to visit a qualified and experienced dentist. At The Downey Dentist, we provide personalized care to all our clients in Downey, CA and the surrounding areas. We will discuss your options extensively and help you make the right choice. We will also guide you on oral care for teeth preservation. Contact our Downey dentist at 562-746-0350 today, and we will help to restore your damaged teeth and improve your dental appearance.