While preventing tooth decay is always our goal at Tafolla & Hammack Family Dentistry, we understand that it is an almost inevitable occurrence at some point in your life. If we find a cavity, we strive to keep the decay from spreading or becoming infected by treating it with a dental filling. In all we do here, our doctors and staff are committed to making your comfort a top priority. We are aware that you may feel some anxiety regarding filling treatments, so we make a point of thoroughly communicating with you about all stages of treatment and asking you frequently about how you are feeling. Throughout your filling treatment, we want to provide you with an wholehearted care that puts you at ease.
Cavities can be found one of three ways: through dental X-rays, a toothache or when one of our doctors inspects your tooth and finds a pit or area that “sticks” when prodded. This stickiness indicates that your dental enamel is softer than it should be and is decaying. The goal of a dental filling is removed the decayed parts of the tooth and seal the area so oral bacteria cannot enter.
During the filling process, you will first be given a local anesthetic to numb the tooth and surrounding area for the duration of the procedure. We will then use a fine, high-speed drill to remove the decayed parts of the tooth. Once the decay is removed, we will use a slower, softer drill to smooth out the affected area and shape it for a filling. Finally, we will fill and seal the hole with either an amalgam (a mixture of silver metals) or ceramic material.
Fillings do occasionally need to be replaced for a number of reasons. While they almost always last for decades, old silver fillings can shift in your tooth over time allowing bacteria to leak into your tooth. This can lead to additional decay in the hole of your initial cavity. If this is the case, we will need to drill out the decayed material and replace the filling or perform a root canal if the cavity extends deep enough.
Silver fillings can also crack your tooth given enough time and pressure since the material is so hard and cannot shift with the tooth. While this is unusual, it is more common with large fillings in your molars. To prevent this, we may use a ceramic filling for these high-pressure areas.
You may also want to replace a silver filling for cosmetic reasons. Before ceramic fillings were commonplace, silver fillings were used for all teeth, including those that are visible when you smile. Today, most dentists will choose a tooth-colored ceramic filling for cavities invisible teeth.