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Dental fillings

What are dental fillings?

Fillings are used to repair teeth that have been broken in an accident or that have deteriorated as a result of tooth decay, they are quite a common occurrence in dental practice. In most circumstances, the filling is used to fix fractured or worn down teeth that are leaving the nerve centre exposed to infection. If the space is not filled to create a barrier between the inner pulp and bacteria in the mouth, there can be long term consequences, including gum disease, abscesses, tooth loss, and generally quite a lot of pain along with them.

Why would I need a dental filling?

If you need to have a dental filling, the chances are you haven’t taken care of your teeth, or if you have, you just haven’t done a thorough enough job. Lots of people may be unaware of the effect their attitude towards oral hygiene can have on their teeth – a thirty second brush every other day isn’t going to do the job. Without you realising, bacteria from the food you eat, everything you drink, and the saliva in your mouth, builds up and starts to break down the teeth, in the absence of proper cleaning habits cavities will begin to form. If the cavities – holes in the enamel and dentin layers of the teeth – are left untreated for long enough, they will eventually break through to the central pulp chamber and allow bacteria to infect the nerves of the teeth, causing them to become inflamed and painful. Dental fillings are designed to eliminate this unpleasant experience, by cleaning out and blocking the holes before infection has a chance to take hold.

Although most fillings are the result of poor oral hygiene, it’s important to note that not all patients fall into this category. Accidents will happen, we all know that, and sometimes a knock or blow to the face can cause breakages, fractures, or root damage – in some cases, just biting a hard sweet can lead to problems. Severely broken teeth are likely to need a root canal if the area is not dealt with immediately, but more superficial cracks and chips can be fixed with some type of filling material, so that the delicate inner workings of the damaged teeth are not put at risk of infection. Hair line fractures should also be repaired, even if they don’t cause pain straight away, your dentist would probably recommend treating the cause first, rather than waiting for the situation to worsen.

Patients who have to endure Bruxism – teeth grinding or clenching, may also have to put up with dental fillings if they have worn down their teeth a lot. Enamel is a very hard mineral, but if two sets of teeth are constantly rubbed against each other over a long period of time, it will eventually wear the layer down, until it develops holes. Fillings can help by rebuilding the deteriorated areas until the outer enamel of the teeth is one even layer, protecting the root and nerves beneath it.

If I need a dental filling, what are my options?

Ultimately, it’s down to your dentist to decide which dental fillings are going to work best for you, although you will probably be able to get the best in modern dentistry if you’re prepared to pay a little extra for quality work. The Pearl Dental Clinic has up-to-date techniques and highly trained staff who work hard on your behalf, to provide the best in dental healthcare. Give a member of the team a call to discuss your needs and financial options.

The traditional filling material – and probably the most recognised – is amalgam. Amalgam gets its name from the mixture of silver, copper, tin, and mercury that’s contained in it; it’s a very hard-wearing metal that is still used in the field today. Millions of people in the UK have lived with amalgam in their teeth for decades, without problems. There is something of a division between professionals on the continued use of amalgam for fillings, some believe that it is outdated and should give way to more modern methods, whilst others maintain that it’s more durable than its counterparts and is still the best material available. Patients with an allergy to metal or those who don’t want visible fillings would be better off with a different material.

Composite white filling is the tooth-coloured substance, which is seeing more widespread use, as patients and dentists strive for an aesthetic finish, as well as functional use. Typically, composite fillings are used for teeth that show when the patient is talking or smiling, and can also be used to reconstruct broken teeth and repair chips. Composite is not as durable as amalgam, so dentists might chose to avoid it when filling teeth further back that undergo more pressure on a daily basis.

How are dental fillings fitted?

Firstly, the tooth decay has to be removed, filling an infected hole would be pointless, the infection would still be free to attack the rest of the tooth. The dentist does this by using a small drill to grind away the dead enamel. The thought of the drill is often the reason why many people are afraid of going to the dentist, but the technology is developing every day, to make the process as quick and painless as possible, and you will be given an anaesthetic to stop you feeling any pain. When the drilling is finished, the cavity is thoroughly cleaned to make sure only healthy enamel remains, and then the dentist can begin the filling procedure. Occasionally, it may be necessary to protect the inner lining of the cavity with a layer of resin – this is to stop the filling interfering with the tiny blood vessels at the centre of the tooth. The filler material is then injected into the space, using specialist tools, and it will start to harden within a few minutes – some dentists use a curing light to make sure it hardens properly in a short amount of time, but that depends on what sort of material has been used.

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