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What is a Filling?
A filling is a dental treatment that repairs a cavity. When bacteria cause decay on a tooth, the decay slowly grows into the tooth by softening enamel. We call tooth decay a “cavity” because the decay can cause a hole in the tooth. In order to repair a cavity, dentists remove the bacteria and softened enamel, which creates a different kind of “hole” surrounded by healthy, solid tooth structure. To complete the process, we fill in this hole, which leads to the common term “filling” for this dental treatment.
What does a Filling Do?
Fillings restore decayed tooth structure back to normal shape and function. This means it feels natural to your tongue and the way you bite. At Copeland Family Dentistry, we use a dental material that also restores the tooth back to a normal appearance. Our composite resin filling material matches natural tooth colors and blends in beautifully.
We also use fillings to restore teeth that have damage from conditions other than tooth decay. Fillings can repair chipped, cracked or worn down teeth. Sometimes we use our perfectly-matched tooth-colored filling material to make cosmetic changes on teeth, like filling in small gaps or reshaping a front tooth.
Composite (tooth-colored) filling material has the added benefit of forming a bond with healthy tooth structure, leading to improved strength and long-term function.
What does the Filling Process Involve?
A filling usually only takes one visit to our office. During a filling, our doctors work to ensure your complete comfort throughout the procedure. Before removing the decayed tooth structure, we use a local anesthetic to remove any painful sensations from the tooth being treated. The anesthetic turns off the nerve inside the tooth for a short time. This means you should not feel any pain or discomfort as we work.
To remove the actual decay, we use the traditional dental drill. Because of the numbness produced by the anesthetic, you will only feel cold water spraying in your mouth. The amount of time we spend removing the cavity depends on the size of the cavity. Very small ones take only a short amount of time, while large decay takes longer.
Once we completely removal the bacteria and decayed tooth structure, we can restore the tooth. Our dentists work with a skilled dental assistant to efficiently place the tooth-colored filling material. (We work quickly because the material cannot come into contact with saliva, and it does not taste good!) Then we shape and polish the newly placed filling until it feels natural to you.
What Should I Expect After a Filling?
Most likely, your tooth will remain numb until after you leave our office. This is normal, as the local anesthetic works for a few hours on average. When this numbness wears off, you should expect mild-to-moderate tenderness and sensitivity on the newly filled tooth. It is common to have sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures, as well as soreness when you chew, for the first two weeks after a filling. You may also experience tenderness at the site where the dentist administered the anesthetic.
If any of your symptoms linger for longer than two weeks, please come back to see us. Your comfort is our priority!