What to Know About Dental Fillings

Are you being told you need another filling every time you see your dentist? Maybe you’re not doing everything you can to prevent cavities. Dentists like Dr. Byron C. Desbordes of Baltimore, MD want you to know the warning signs that can tell you that you may have a cavity, what to expect when getting a cavity filled and how to care for your new filling.

Why Do You Need A Filling?

When food particles and saliva combine to form sticky plaque, it can coat your teeth and if not removed with regular brushing and flossing can lead to tooth decay.  Usually-harmless bacteria that live in our mouths thrive feeding on this plaque. The digestive acids released by these bacteria can dissolve our tooth enamel as they feed on the plaque. The enamel becomes discolored as it begins to weaken and dissolve. If this is not treated, that portion of the tooth will eventually chip away, forming a “cavity” — a hole in your tooth’s enamel — that will allow bacteria inside, causing infection and pain.

How Do You Recognize Decay?

  • Dark spots or greyish black areas on your front teeth
  • Chipped off areas that your tongue often goes into
  • Holes where food gets stuck

If you experience or see any of the above issues, it may be time to see your dentist.

What does decay feel like?

The earliest signs are usually mild sensitivity to cold or hot liquids or transient sensitivity when eating sweet food. Prolonged sensitivity to hot or cold things, and slight pain when biting or chewing often follow. Eventually, if the issue is left untreated, you may feel an electric sensation or sudden sensitivity when eating certain foods. This may result in constant pain that lasts for hours and needs medication to be relieved.

How Does the Dentist Choose A Filling? 

Filling materials were once usually silver amalgam but then dentists switched to cements like glass ionomer. Today, the most widely used substance is plastic composite — a tooth-colored material that is soft when applied but then hardens, chemically bonding to your teeth when cured with a UV light.

How Much Will It Cost? 

Costs of fillings can vary widely on:

  • The material being used by the dentist
  • Skill and experience of the dentist
  • The size of the filling
  • Amount of remaining tooth structure

What Should I Expect After A Filling?

When done with composite, you should be able to eat immediately after the filling is placed with no precautions. At this point, your tooth is as good as new and you should be unable to differentiate between the filling and your natural tooth. There may be some mild to moderate sensitivity in the filled tooth but this should abate within 48 hours. If the filling is slightly over or under the level of your bite, it may take some time and wear for you to adjust to. 

Preventing Tooth Decay

Tooth decay or cavities can be procedures such as applying sealants in the fissures of teeth to prevent food lodging in teeth or applying fluoride to attract more calcium and protect the tooth from breakdown by bacterial acid. Once completed, fillings need only be cared for with proper oral hygiene at home, including daily brushing, using mouthwash and flossing.

How Long Will My Filling Last?

Contrary to what many people think, fillings are not permanent. Most fillings last anywhere from 3-7 years on average but they should be examined on a yearly basis to make sure they’re holding up well. If you notice any discoloration, darkening, or chipping under the filling, schedule to see your dentist immediately. These things indicate a breakdown of the enamel and the need for replacement of the filling.

If you live or work in the Baltimore, MD area and would like a consultation with Dr. Desbordes about a possible cavity or any dental concern, call (410) 216-4023 or schedule online today!