If you’ve had a cavity, you’re not alone. A recent study found that nearly every American has tooth decay, and a majority of them have tooth fillings to treat and prevent more decay. With all those dental fillings comes a host of questions; here are our answers that address patients’ frequently asked questions about cavities and dental fillings.
Why do people need fillings?
Most commonly, a dental filling is used to treat cavities (otherwise known as caries or tooth decay); fillings can also be used to treat cracked, broken, or worn teeth. A cavity is the product of a perfect storm of bacteria, food, and saliva. The combination forms plaque, which includes acid. The acid wears down tooth enamel and forms holes in the teeth, called a cavity.
Cavities can affect patients of any age; even children with cavities in baby teeth should consider treatment so the tooth decay does not reoccur in developing adult teeth. If left untreated, tooth decay can progress and cavities can get larger.
Cavities can form with no obvious signs or symptoms. The most common symptoms are pain and tooth sensitivity. Eventually, an untreated cavity can compromise the structure of the tooth and lead to more invasive procedures. A dentist can diagnose a cavity with a simple exam and recommend treatment. The most common treatment for a cavity is a dental filling.
During a filling treatment, the dentist removes the decay and replaces it with a filling. There are several different kinds of tooth fillings that are commonly used.
What are dental fillings made of?
Dental fillings are commonly made of gold, silver amalgam, or composite. There are advantages and disadvantages of each dental filling; a dentist can discuss the best options and decide what kind of filling is best for the patient, both for their health and budget.
Gold fillings tend to be the most expensive option, but many patients comment that they appreciate the aesthetics of a gold filling. Gold fillings are also long-lasting and very durable.
Silver amalgam fillings are made of a variety of metals, and a very appealing dental filling because of the durability and price. Like gold, silver amalgam fillings are long-lasting. The cons of this filling include the possibility of a slight discoloration and the aesthetics, which many patients do not appreciate.
Composite dental fillings are the same color as the tooth, make them an attractive option because they match the color of the tooth. However, on average, composite dental fillings are not as long-lasting as gold and silver amalgam fillings.
How long do dental fillings last?
The actual length of time for a dental filling depends on the patient. On average, gold and silver amalgam fillings last 10-15 years. Composite dental fillings last approximately 5 years.
If a filling falls out, do not try to reattach the filling. Instead, take the filling out and keep it safe until you can make an emergency appointment with your dentist. (Make sure you call, don’t e-mail Watertown Area Dental for an emergency dentist appointment.)