Has it been a long time since you’ve been to the dentist and you’re worried you might need a filling? Fillings are one of the most common dental treatments performed but why do you actually need them? What do they really do for you? Dentists like Dr. John C. Cranham of Chesapeake, VA wants you to know what to look out for that may tell you that you may need a filling, what to expect when getting a filling and how to care for them.
Why Do You Need A Filling?
When food particles, saliva and bacteria combine to form sticky plaque on your teeth and that plaque is not properly removed due irregular brushing and flossing, the bacteria will begin to feed on the buildup. The problem is that the digestive acids released by these bacteria will continue on to your healthy tooth enamel underneath. This is how tooth decay begins and, if it is allowed to continue, it will eventually weaken your enamel and cause a hole — or cavity — to form. Cavities can create nerve sensitivity and even allow infection to spread inside your tooth.
How Do You Recognize Decay?
- Dark spots or greyish black areas on your front teeth
- Chipped off areas that your tongue often finds
- Holes where food gets stuck
If you notice any of the above, it may be time to schedule an appointment to see your dentist.
What Does Decay Feel Like?
Tooth decay can cause your teeth to feel more sensitive to hot or cold liquids, or when eating sweet food. It can eventually lead to problems biting or chewing. If not treated at that point, you can start feeling sharp pain, sudden sensitivity or intolerance to certain foods, or constant pain in your tooth that will need medication to be relieved.
How Does the Dentist Choose A Filling?
Filling were once made of silver and later out of cement like glass ionomer. However, these days modern dentists mostly use plastic composite, a tooth-colored material that is soft when applied but hardens when cured with a UV light, to complete their fillings.
What Should I Expect After A Filling?
A permanent filling made with composite allows you to eat immediately afterwards with no real restrictions. At that point, your tooth is as good as new and you should be unable to see where the filing was done. There may be some mild to moderate sensitivity in the filled tooth which should subside within 48 hours though. It may also take you some time and wear to adjust to the feeling of it if the filling is slightly over or under the level of your bite.
Preventing Tooth Decay
Decay or cavities can be avoided by preventive treatments such as applying sealants in the fissures of teeth to prevent food becoming lodged in your teeth. Applying fluoride to attract more calcium to build up the teeth and protect them from breakdown by bacterial acid is also an option. Once completed, fillings can be maintained by practicing proper oral hygiene at home including daily brushing, mouthwash and flossing.
How Long Will My Filling Last?
Unfortunately, Fillings do not last forever. In fact, on average they normally only last anywhere from 3-7 years. However, you should continue to have regular annual examinations by your dentist to make sure your fillings are holding up. If you notice any discoloration, darkening, or chipping under the filling, schedule an appointment with your dentist immediately as this could indicate the need for a replacement filling.
If you are in the Chesapeake, VA area and would like a consultation with Dr. Cranham about a possible cavity or any dental concern, call 757.656.4109 or schedule online today!