Cavities (also known as dental caries) are caused by a number of things, including bacteria, poor oral hygiene, frequent snacking, and drinking sugary drinks. Once a cavity forms, the damage is permanent. Your tooth cannot heal itself, and if left untreated, the cavity will continue to grow and may require more extensive intervention than a filling. Regular visits to our office will ensure early detection of any tooth decay and allow Dr. Dogra to treat it before it becomes a bigger and more painful issue.
Cavities are highly preventable with a good oral hygiene routine that includes brushing your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste at least twice per day. Flossing at least once per day is also crucial to getting the hard to reach places your toothbrush misses, and the areas most likely for food and bacteria to hide. Unfortunately, many people only brush their teeth for a few seconds instead of the recommended 2 minutes, or don’t brush regularly and skip the floss. Tooth decay is the second most common disease besides the common cold. In the U.S., approximately 1 in 4 adults and nearly 50% of teenagers have at least one cavity.
Dental fillings are used to fill cavities (also known as dental caries), and repair cracked or broken teeth. The most common filling materials are:
- Silver amalgam (compound of mercury mixed with silver, tin, zinc, and copper)
- Composite resin (tooth-colored glass and plastic compound)
Each material type carries advantages and disadvantages. Gold is durable and may be aesthetically pleasing to some, but is generally about ten times as expensive as other options and can cause a galvanic shock if placed next to a silver amalgam filling. Porcelain is exceptionally resistant to staining and is similar to the color of your teeth, but is often abrasive and about as expensive as gold fillings. Silver amalgam fillings are a common choice because of their strength, durability, and affordability. However, they often require more healthy tooth material to be removed than other options to make room for the filling and are also more likely to cause tooth cracks and fractures over time due to the expanding and contracting metal.
Composite resin has become the most frequently used material in dental fillings due to its aesthetically pleasing tooth-color. Additionally, less tooth structure needs to be removed to place a composite resin filling versus other options, and because the resin bonds to the tooth structure, it strengthens the tooth. Disadvantages to composite resin include reduced durability compared to other options and slightly increased price compared to silver amalgam. Extra steps are also required for composite resin because it requires multiple layers and a special light to dry and harden the area around the filling.
To fill a tooth, a local anesthetic is applied to numb the area around the tooth. A drill, laser, or air abrasion instrument will be used to remove the decayed area, and afterward, Dr. Dogra will probe the area to ensure all the decayed tooth material was removed. He will then prepare the space for the filling by cleaning the cavity of bacteria and debris. In some cases, Dr. Dogra may apply a liner for your tooth called a glass ionomer to help protect the tooth and nerve before we fill the tooth. This is frequently done if the decay was especially close to the root. After your filling is complete, we will polish the tooth to make it feel smooth and natural.
Afterward, we recommend you care for your filling in much the same way you care for your teeth. A healthy routine involves brushing your teeth at least twice per day and flossing at least once per day. Rarely, fillings may become chipped, cracked, or loose. You may experience some discomfort immediately after having a filling placed, but it shouldn’t be uncomfortable regularly after that. Please call our office immediately if you think your filling is damaged or is causing you pain.
The procedure can vary in time and cost depending on the extent of the damage to the tooth. Most insurances completely cover silver amalgam fillings or a portion of the cost of composite resin up to the cost of amalgam. Any additional cost would be due to Confident Smiles at the time of treatment. We recommend that you contact your dental insurance to find out what is covered. If you do not have dental insurance and would like a quote, have any questions about fillings, or to schedule an appointment, please call our office today at (916) 736-2801.