Fill me in
A cavity is a hole in a tooth that results from bacteria.
Unfortunately, once a hole forms in a tooth, the body cannot repair it. Hundreds of years ago (before fillings existed), cavities eventually caused people so much pain that they would have the tooth removed.
Amazingly, modern dentistry has found a way to let you keep your decayed teeth. All that needs to be done is to have the bacteria professionally removed and then to replace the hole in the tooth with a hard, tooth-like material known as a dental filling.
Treating cavities involves 2 principals: removing the decayed portion of the tooth and filling the missing tooth structure with material. Fillings restore a decayed or broken tooth to normal size and hopefully function. Enamel loss is a common component of tooth decay and may result in tooth sensitivity. In many cases, tooth sensitivity caused by enamel loss will be greatly improved or completely eliminated once an appropriate dental filling material is placed.
If you have a cavity, your dentist will be able to determine this and assess the level of decay, this will be done by taking an X-ray to determine the extent and exact location of the cavity and decay. Sometimes, the decay can be quite severe, leading to the need for a crown or root canal. But in some cases, the decay will need to be cleaned out and you will receive a simple filling.
In preparation for treatment, the area surrounding the affected tooth will be numbed using a local anaesthetic. The decay or damage is then removed with a dental hand-piece or laser. If a drill is being used, it may result in some vibration being felt. After this, the area will be cleaned to remove bacteria or debris before the restoration is completed.
The tooth will then need to be isolated to ensure adequate bonding. The tooth isolation prevents moisture from interfering with the bonding process. The bonding procedure requires the placement of various adhesives followed by the composite material, which is then hardened with a special bonding light. A metal or plastic band may be placed around the cavity before the restoration is placed. This band helps the dentist shape the filling.
The exact dental filling procedure used here will vary according to the material being used. At Dental Pearls, we use tooth coloured fillings. This is a more time-consuming process – though worth it if you consider the fact that the results look completely natural!
The white filling material, in the appropriate colour, is added in thin layers. Each layer is made to set/harden using a blue ‘curing’ light. The tooth must be kept dry during this stage. Your dentist may place a ‘dental dam’ to keep the tooth dry. Once the restoration has been built up in layers, it will require final shaping in order to sculpt the filling into its final shape. It is then polished to give it a nice smooth surface, ending the dental filling procedure.
Once a tooth has been filled, it will require exactly the same care as an unfilled tooth. A filling in a tooth replaces damaged tooth only, it does not prevent further decay. You will need to practice good oral hygiene and schedule regular dental check-ups to ensure that your teeth remain healthy.