If you’ve had a child or were a child (that covers pretty much everyone) you’ve probably been threatened with, or maybe even had a filling. Even if you’ve had one yourself, it’s not always clear what they are, or why we need them. So this month we give you the lowdown on fillings.
Why Do We Need Fillings?
It all starts with the day you were born. When you were a new-born baby, there was no harmful bacteria inside your mouth. But as you grew, bacteria found it’s way inside through your food (and other things you put in your mouth) and made a home there. This is unavoidable, and that bacteria will stay in your mouth the rest of your life. These bacteria live on your teeth, and whenever you eat something, you feed them as well.
After the bacteria eat, they automatically produce a strong acid, which gradually eats away at your teeth. If the bacteria is allowed to stay on your teeth and keep producing this acid, it will keep destroying tiny amounts of your tooth until they made a hole. These holes are called cavities, and unlike other parts of our body, they can’t repair themselves. Instead the holes remain and become a breeding ground for more, nastier bacteria, which could lead to a nasty infection. That’s why it’s so important to get rid of this stick layer of bacteria and their acid (commonly known as plaque) by brushing your teeth and flossing to avoid the creation of cavities.
What Is A Filling?
Because your body can’t repair cavities, we need to help them. Dental fillings are a way to literally ‘fill in’ the hole in your tooth and restore it back to it’s original shape and function. The dentist will need to remove any dead tooth material, clean the area and fill the hole with a filling material. They do this so that the hole will be close doff, preventing the bacteria from getting into the tooth and causing more damage.
What Are The Types Of Filling?
When it comes to fillings, dental science has come a long way. Today, there are 4 types of filling you can choose from.
Gold fillings are the most expensive option, as they are made from gold. Gold fillings are made in a laboratory, are generally well received by the gums and will last over 20 years, making them a good investment. They do however require several visits in order to get them moulded, made and fitted, and can be very expensive.
Amalgam fillings are the most preferred type of filling as they are resistant to wear damage and relatively inexpensive. The downside to amalgam fillings is that they are silver in colour, making them quite obvious. For this reason they are not normally used in the more visible areas, like the front teeth.
Composite fillings are perfect for creating a more ‘natural’ look. Composite fillings are plastic, and made to match the colour of your teeth. They can also be placed as soon as your dentist noticed the cavity, as the plastics are mixed and inserted directly into the hole and allowed to harden. However, composites can chip and wear over time, so they are often not used for bigger fillings. They are also more prone to staining from coffee, tea or smoking, and usually need to be replaced every 10 years or so.
Porcelain fillings are also called inlays or onlays, and are another form of filling that is produced in a laboratory before being fitted. The porcelain can be matched to the colour of the tooth and are more resistant to staining. They can be quite expensive, and they cover most of the tooth. Porcelain is also used to make caps if the decay or a fracture has damaged a large section of the tooth.
If your dentist discovers you need a filling, their first step will be to remove any decay from the tooth and clean it. If you choose to have a composite or amalgam filling you can then have the tooth filled at the same time. If you want one of the more expensive options, they may put in a temporary filling to keep the hole clean while the permanent fillings are made, so you will need to return to have the materials fitted. Only a dentist can tell if you need a filling, as there are usually no outward signs, so it’s important you have regular check ups to avoid tooth decay. To book your check up today, get in touch.