What are Dental Fillings?
A filling is a way to restore a tooth damaged by decay back to its normal function and shape. When a dentist gives you a filling, he or she first removes the decayed tooth material, cleans the affected area, and then fills the cleaned out cavity with a filling material. By closing off spaces where bacteria can enter, a filling also helps prevent further decay.
Types of Filling Material
- Amalgam (Silver) fillings are resistant to wear and relatively inexpensive. However, due to their dark color, they are more noticeable than porcelain or composite restorations.
- Composite Resins are matched to be the same color as your teeth and therefore used where a natural appearance is desired. The ingredients are placed directly into the cavity, where they harden. Composites may not be the ideal material for large fillings as they may chip or wear over time. They can also become stained from coffee, tea or tobacco, and do not last as long as other types of fillings, generally a few years.
Some people feel sensitivity after they receive a filling. The tooth may be sensitive to pressure, air, sweet foods or cold. Composite fillings often cause sensitivity, but other types of filling materials can, too.
The most common reason for pain right after the anesthetic wears off is that the filling is too high. Call your dentist so you can be seen as soon as possible to reduce the height of the filling.
The second type of discomfort is a very sharp shock that appears only when your teeth touch. This is called galvanic shock. It is caused by two metals (one in the newly filled tooth and one in the tooth it's touching) producing an electric current in your mouth. This would happen, for example, if you had a new amalgam filling in a bottom tooth and had a gold crown in the tooth above it.
In most other cases, the sensitivity will decrease over one to two weeks. Until then, try to avoid anything that causes it. If your tooth is extremely sensitive or your sensitivity does not decrease after two weeks, contact your dentist's office.
It's important to let your dentist know about any sensitivity you are feeling. The next time you need a filling, he or she may be able to use a different material and make changes to reduce sensitivity. People vary in their response to different materials. Your dentist has no way of predicting if your tooth will react to a particular material. When you talk to your dentist about the sensitivity, try to describe it as precisely as possible. This information will help decide what should be done next.
Your dentist polishes the filling after it is placed, but occasionally sharp edges may remain. You can't detect this at first because of the anesthesia. If you find one, contact your dentist and arrange to have it smoothed as soon as possible to avoid injury to your tongue or mouth.