FAQ: All About Fillings

cosmetic dentist in Richmond MissouriIt may seem that every time you go to the dentist you need another filling. Dr. Nelson Kanning at Kanning Dental in Lawson, MO can help you spot the initial symptoms of tooth decay that may indicate that you need fillings. He can also tell you about the procedure and how to care for your teeth afterwards.

Why Do You Need Fillings?

Bacteria on and around the teeth can accumulate when food particles and plaque remain on the teeth due to inadequate brushing or because the food is particularly sticky. If the bacteria are allowed to remain on the teeth, over time they begin to release acids. These acids will dissolve the protective coating on the teeth called enamel. It is the outermost layer of the tooth. One of the first signs that the enamel is eroding is tooth discoloration. Eventually, if not treated, a portion of the tooth will chip away and form a hole that we call a cavity.

Recognizing Decay

Just like many other disease processes, there are a few indications that something is going on. Do you have any of these signs? It may be time to see a dentist.

  • Food getting stuck in the pockets of your teeth
  • Discoloration in one or more teeth, dark or greyish black areas on your front teeth
  • Tongue getting stuck on chipped teeth

The first sign of tooth decay is not usually pain. For most patients, they will notice a mild sensitivity to hot and cold foods or a sensitivity to sweets. Left untreated, the sensitivity to hot and cold foods and sweets will turn into a more pronounced and prolonged sensitivity when the tooth comes into contact with the offensive foods. Eventually, this will lead to pain or an electric sensation when biting down that lasts long after the food is consumed and may require medication to alleviate the pain.

Types of Fillings

Filling materials have evolved over the years. In the past, silver amalgam was used and then there were different cements being used such as glass ionomer. Plastic composite is now the choice of most dentists. It more resembles a natural tooth color. It is a soft substance when being applied to the tooth but will harden chemically and bond to the tooth once the tooth is placed in direct contact with UV light.

How Much Will It Cost?

Many factors go into determining how much a filling will cost but here are a few things that the dentist takes into consideration:

  • Damage to the tooth and how much structure of the tooth is remaining
  • Experience/skills of the dentist
  • Size of the filling
  • Materials being used  to do the filling

What Do I Do After a Filling?

Since most dentists use plastic composite filling material, you should be able to eat normally after a cavity is filled. Also, in most cases, you may not even be able to tell where the filling was done since it resembles a tooth in color and appearance. As with any medical procedure some patients experience some mild pain or sensitivity and that usually subsides within 48 hours. Additionally, if the filling is slightly under or over your bite level, it may take a little time to get used to the new filling.

Preventing Tooth Decay

Of course, preventing tooth decay is always the best option using good oral hygiene, including brushing, flossing and mouthwash, but your dentist can also perform a few preventive procedures to help prevent tooth decay. One of the main preventive treatments is sealants. Applying sealants to the teeth helps to prevent food from becoming lodged in the fissures of the teeth. Fluoride treatments are another maintenance treatment that can be applied. This treatment attracts more calcium to the teeth which helps to break down bacterial acids.

How Long will My Fillings Last?

Unfortunately, fillings do not last forever. Depending on the composite used, they will last anywhere from 3-7 years. Regular visits to your dentist will ensure that your fillings are doing their job. If there is any change in the appearance of your fillings (discoloration, chipping, etc.), it’s time to see the dentist. If you live or work in Lawson, MO and think you have a cavity, please schedule a consultation online with Dr. Kanning or call us at 816-580-4191!