Washington Dental is a highly rated and reputed dental care center serving clients in and around Los Angeles, Carson, Torrance, and Lomita. By combining cutting-edge dental technology with the skill of dental artistry, our team of highly qualified dental professionals is experienced with handling all types of dental filling procedures while ensuring patient’s comfort and convenience. From all the different types of filling materials and treatments available, our expert dentists will provide the solution that is right for you. It is crucial to treat tooth decay as early as possible, or it will lead to more decay and more serious dental problems. The faster you take care of a cavity problem, the better.

What are Dental Fillings?

A filling is a dental treatment intended to restore the tooth structure lost to decay. This restorative dentistry solution can be used to repair minimal tooth fractures, prevent further tooth decay, or restore otherwise damaged surface of the tooth so that it could retain its normal function and shape. Dental filling procedures are most commonly used for repairing cracked or fractured teeth, or to restore teeth that have weakened over time due to malign activities like tooth grinding or nail-biting.

Dental fillings can help repair cavities, so they don't turn into more significant dental problems down the road. Filling in a tooth allows your dentist to fill small holes caused as a result of tooth decay. It is essential to treat tooth decay before it causes other serious dental problems, like root canals or tooth extractions. Only a dentist can detect whether you have a cavity that needs to be filled after a proper checkup; however, there are a few symptoms that may help you recognize that you have a cavity.

Signs That You May Have a Cavity That Requires a Dental Filling:

  • Dark (black/brown) spots on the surface of your teeth
  • A constant, dull toothache
  • A hole or cavity in your teeth
  • Food keeps getting stuck between your teeth
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold beverages
  • Sharp pain during bite on a particular tooth
  • Bad breath that does not go away even after brushing

One of the common reasons behind oral health issues discovered during scheduled dental cleanings is tooth decay. It causes loss of enamel, which often results in tooth sensitivity. With an appropriate dental filling procedure, the enamel loss can be notably improved or entirely eliminated. A dental filling is an ideal choice for small fractures and decay. For more severe cases, depending on the extent of tooth decay or damage, other kinds of restorative dental treatment, such as crowns or dental implants may be recommended.

Why Are Dental Fillings Important?

When a dentist detects that you have a cavity and decides to fill it, he or she will start with removing the decayed portion of the tooth and clean the affected area. Once the cavity is cleaned out, the area on the tooth is then filled with a mutually agreed type of filling material. However, it is important to note that removal of decay from the tooth can prevent further damage, but it does not fix the damage that has already occurred. This stresses more on the importance of fillings in dental procedures. A successful filling in the cavity can help a dentist restore complete functionality to an impaired tooth. Also, dental fillings not only reinforce your tooth but also prevent it from becoming a site of severe or continued infection by stopping bacteria or plaque.

With the advancements in modern dentistry, dental fillings are used for more than just filling in tooth cavities. Dental fillings guard your smile from the future tooth decay problems and erosion as well.

Steps Involved in Filling a Tooth

Your dentist and his dental assistant start the procedure by using numbing jelly and then inject a local anesthetic to the decayed tooth and teeth. The use of anesthetic will also numb the jaw and gums around the teeth, which ensure the comfort of the patient throughout the procedure.

The dentist will carefully prepare the space to cleanse the affected tooth for restoration. An acid gel may be used to cleanse the area to remove bacteria or debris. The type and extent of the tooth preparation for restoration depend on various considerations­ - The most critical factor being the extent of the decay. The extent of decay helps to determine the subsequent methods and appropriate materials to be used for restoration. Another consideration is an unsupported tooth structure, which requires the dentist to remove unsupported enamel to prepare the decayed tooth to receive a restoration.  A liner or special medication may be applied for added protection of the nerve if the decay is near the root of the tooth.

Your dentist may then use a dental drill or laser to remove the decay from the damaged tooth structure and make space for filling the planned restorative materials. Sometimes, fractions of the tooth that are structurally flawed may also need to be removed. The instrument used for decay removal depends on your dentist's level of comfort, training, and extent of the decay.

The chosen filling material is then applied to the affected area of the tooth to fill the cavity. The specific technique used for inserting the filling varies depending on the type of filling material you opt to receive.

After the filling is in and the tooth has hardened, the dentist will make the final adjustments to the tooth to conclude the procedure. Your dentist may take your bite impression to make sure your teeth align comfortably. Once this dental filling procedure is successfully done, your tooth will restore to its original shape and function. Usually, it will take a few hours for the numbness to decrease, so it is generally recommended not to eat or drink anything for the meantime. It is also common to experience some hot and cold sensations when the fillings are first placed; however, they will diminish as the finished tooth adapts to the new filling material.

It is important that the dentist discusses with you about how further decay can be prevented from forming underneath or near the filling once the procedure for dental restoration is complete. Dentists should advise the patient about the healthy oral practices for a longer life of the filling. Follow-up visits are sometimes important to ensure the progress of the tooth with the new filling.

Different Types of Dental Fillings

When it comes to filling a tooth cavity, it is important to spend some time consulting your dentist about the different treatments and materials available to get the best dental care. An expert dentist will not only answer all your questions and but also suggest the treatment and material that’s right for you depending on the size and location of your tooth cavity, cosmetic concerns, budget, dental history, and your personal preferences. There are five types of materials commonly used for cavity filling once the decay has been removed. Here is some information on the different kinds of materials available for filling cavities so that you can make an informed decision on the filling you need. 

Gold Fillings

Although gold fillings have been used in dentistry for over a thousand years for its malleability and durability, it isn't prevalent today. You won't easily find a dentist who will offer a gold filling option nowadays. Gold dental fillings are made from gold alloy and may contain gold, copper and other metals, which are incredibly durable, making your fillings last 15-20 years in most cases. Gold fillings are mostly preferred for high-stress chewing areas.  

Gold fillings are often the most expensive choice when it comes to choosing materials for tooth filling. They can be six to ten times more expensive than silver amalgam fillings.

A gold filing when placed side by side with a silver amalgam filling can sometimes result in a sharp pain, which is called galvanic shock. This interaction between the saliva and metals occasionally triggers an electric current to occur; although, it’s a rare situation. Also, a gold filling dental restoration procedure will take more than one dental appointment to complete. Another reason why gold fillings are less popular today is that some people don’t like the appearance of metal fillings because they don’t blend with the natural color of the tooth. Most patients don’t find such colored fillings to be ‘eye-pleasing’ while interestingly; some prefer them for their aesthetic virtue.

Amalgam (Silver) Fillings

Used by dental professionals for generations, silver amalgam is the most common material used for a cavity filling. Amalgam fillings are highly resistant to wear and considered among the least expensive materials for a cavity filling. They are easier to place into a cavity and last longer than composite resin fillings; however, they have a downside—they don’t offer a natural look. These fillings have a traditional metallic appearance as they are made of a stable mix of elemental metals, including silver, tin, mercury, and mercury. The dark color of amalgam fillings make them more noticeable—and not ‘aesthetically pleasing’—when you laugh or smile as compared to other procedures, like composite resin or porcelain restoration. Also, they are not considered a preferred choice for visible areas of the mouth, such as front teeth. The silver fillings may darken over time as they corrode. However, they make an ideal choice for filling large areas of decay in the back of the mouth, such as molars, which are used for chewing food. 

A point of controversy that has been raised over the years with amalgam is its mercury content, which is considered unsafe. However, the American Dental Academy (ADA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have deemed amalgam fillings a safe and reliable choice over this alleged issue.

Dental amalgam used for filling into the cavity is prepared using a mixing machine. The prepared amalgam is tightly packed into the cavity hole ensuring no air pockets. The dentist then carves it into a shape that matches the contours of other teeth while ensuring a proper bite action. With proper oral hygiene, amalgam fillings can last for at least ten years if not longer.  

Composite Fillings

Composite fillings are among the most common fillings used by dentists for their durability and natural look. While most people focus on having a white, bright smile, they urge for fillings that mimic the physical appearance of their teeth. This type of filling, also called ‘white filling,' can be matched in color to the same shade as an individual’s existing teeth. The composite fillings feature a combination of plastic resin and finely ground glasslike particles, which produce a tooth-colored restoration and bond directly to the tooth structure to provide more support.

In addition to the aesthetic advantage, this type of dental filling makes a good choice for small- to mid-size restorations in areas of your mouth where moderate chewing strength is required. They work for both back and front regions that are visible when you smile.  

The ingredients used in a composite resin filling are mixed to create a paste form and then filled into the cavity where it takes the exact shape of the cavity. Composite resin is placed in layers to restore tooth functionality and make a better choice of sealant for the margins of your teeth. A composite filling procedure requires tooth isolation using a rubber damn and involves the placement of various adhesives after the composite material, which is then hardened using a special ‘blue’ bonding light.

Composite fillings can be repaired or restored many times without having to remove the original filling unlike dental amalgams, which require tooth extraction before being replaced. The composite resin material may not be the best choice for large fillings as they tend to chip or wear over time. Also, composite fillings tend to show signs of tooth stains if you are someone who consumes tea, coffee, or tobacco frequently. So, composite fillings don’t last as long as other filling types and need frequent replacements—every five to seven years.

Generally, composite fillings cost more and can be less durable than amalgam fillings. Since composite fillings require the tooth to be kept clean and dry during the time cavity is filled, it takes more time placing a composite filling as compared to a metal filling.

Porcelain/Ceramic Fillings

Ceramic cavity fillings, usually made of porcelain, are typically referred to as inlays or onlays. Ceramic fillings are both durable and aesthetically pleasing but can be nearly as expensive as a gold filling. So, if the cost is a constraint, then ceramic or porcelain filling might not be the best option for you.

Once the dentist is done shaping the cavity, he or she takes an impression of the tooth and send it to the lab where an inlay or onlay is prepared for your tooth. Once prepared, porcelain cavity fillings are sent back and then bonded to the tooth using dental cement. However, porcelain ceramic fillings are more brittle than composite resin, so there are more chances of breakage. Due to this reason, porcelain fillings are not always recommended for back teeth restorations that need to withstand high chewing force.

These fillings are tooth-colored, meaning they can be matched to the color of natural tooth enamel. Also, they are more resistant to staining and don’t show signs of stains as fast as composite resin fillings. With proper oral hygiene, porcelain ceramic fillings can last for more than 15 years.

Glass Ionomer Fillings

Another filling material used by dentists for replacing the part of the tooth destroyed by tooth decay is glass ionomer. The glass ionomer is made from a blend of glass particles with acrylic acids, this cavity filling sticks to the tooth and forms a solid restoration. Also, these fillings have a natural appearance that mimics the color of your tooth enamel.

The glass-and-acrylic fillings are ideal for young children with changing tooth structure as the material releases fluoride that helps to protect teeth from further decay. Since ionomers are fragile and typically less durable than other filling materials, they are more likely to crack or dislodged and may need to be replaced in as little as five years while the cost is comparable to composite resin. Mostly, dentists use glass ionomer fillings only for very small cavities or isolated cavities between teeth. They are often used for fillings at or below the gum line.

Are Dental Fillings Painful?

While most people don’t know much about cavity fillings, others tend to believe in common misconceptions due to lack of knowledge. One such common misconception is that dental fillings are painful, serious, or extremely negative. However, that not true. The procedure of dental filling starts with numbing the patient’s affected tooth with a local anesthetic, so the patient does not feel any pain during the filling procedure. Moreover, most modern dental care centers use high-quality dental equipment, have comfortable patient chairs, and other facilities that ensure a patient’s comfort and convenience.

Dentals filings are a common way to relieve cavity pain, however slight tooth pain just after a filling procedure is possible in some cases. Common reasons include:

  • Tooth sensitivity: Filled teeth are generally more sensitive to hot/cold foods, cold air, and biting pressure, which may be a reason of pain, however, such pain would automatically sort out within a few days.
  • Cracked or ill-fitted tooth fillings: Ill-fitting filling to the tooth or any cracks in the tooth filling may also be a reason for your tooth pain.
  • Allergic reactions: Always communicate your dentist regarding any allergies when discussing the materials for filling choices to avoid pain after cavity filling.

Does Dental Insurance Policy Cover Cost of Fillings?

It depends on an individual’s dental coverage. Generally, most dental insurance policies cover some portion of your dental care costs. For the costlier filling procedures, it may be possible that your insurance coverage costs up to a specific limit and you’ll be responsible for the remaining. Most dental insurance plans cover the cost of composite cavity fillings up to the price of an amalgam filling; then the patient has to pay the difference of their pocket. If you have dental insurance, you must check to determine what’s covered for you. The total cost of cavity filling procedure may depend on how many teeth need fillings, the extent of decay, location of an infected tooth, type of material used for filling, as well as the location of your dentist where the procedure will take place.

Taking Care of Your Dental Fillings

Visiting your dentist for regular dental checkups and cleaning sessions top the list when it comes to taking care of your oral health. If your dentist gets to diagnose problems at an early stage and treat them in a timely, they can surely save serious dental issues from occurring. You should follow good oral hygiene, including brushing teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, limit the amount of sugary drinks and food that you eat, flossing and using an antibacterial mouthwash every day. If you just had a cavity filling, try not to eat or drink anything until the anesthesia has worn off. Do not consume foods/beverages that are extremely hot or cold and if possible, avoid sticky or hard snacks, like gum or popcorn.

Find a Dental Care Center Specializing in Dental Fillings Near Me

Need a cavity filling? You’re not alone. Most people need at least one dental filling in their lifetime. If you or a loved one has a damaged tooth that requires a filling treatment, you will need the expertise and experience of a promising dental care center like Washington Dental. We have highly qualified and experienced dentists who can give you the best advice and information on any tooth problem, including dental filling procedures. We assure a comfortable lobby, fully modern treatment center, and a knowledgeable and friendly staff for a pleasant dental experience. Be assured of receiving all the useful care tips and instructions after your dental filling procedure so you can take further care of your dental fillings on your own. Our entire team looks forward to providing you the best in modern dentistry and enhance your smile! We have 3 convenient locations.

Carson Dentist
Lomita Dentist
Downtown Los Angeles Dentist