Do you have a dental filling coming up? Here’s what you should know about the procedure, the process and the recovery.
Dental fillings can be an intimidating concept. Do they hurt? How long do they take to perform? How long does a filling last? These are important questions…and we’re here to answer them.
What is a Dental Filling?
A dental filling is a procedure that restores a decayed tooth.
During a filling, your dentist will remove decayed or damaged tooth matter. He or she will then fill the area with a particular filling material, depending on your needs.
A variety of materials can be used for dental fillings:
- Composite Resin
Amalgam is perhaps the most common material used for fillings. Amalgam filling consists of liquid mercury, copper, silver and tin. These fillings are more affordable than gold or porcelain, but they are also more visible, giving a repaired tooth a silver or metallic appearance. Amalgam isn’t often used for tooth decay occurring on the most visible teeth, but can work well for premolars and molars.
Gold and porcelain are equally expensive, but can last longer than other filling materials and are also less noticeable to the naked eye.
Do Dental Fillings Hurt?
Your dental filling procedure shouldn’t be painful.
Your dentist will numb your mouth, teeth and gums beforehand. He or she can then adjust the numbness level according to your own pain levels and needs.
After the procedure, some individuals do experience tooth sensitivity when air pressure reaches the affected tooth or when they eat hot or cold foods.
However, this sensitivity should subside over time. If it doesn’t, your filling might be placed too high.
Another cause of long-term pain following a dental filling is pulpitis.
During your filling procedure, your dentist will use heat and vibration to get rid of decayed tooth matter. This can cause the pulp of your tooth to become inflamed and swollen–a condition known as pulpitis. This pain often subsides as the tooth continues to heal. If it doesn’t, however, you may need to get a root canal procedure to get relief.
How Long Do Dental Fillings Last?
The lifespan of your filling depends on two things: the material used and your own dental hygiene practices. With good dental hygiene, gold or porcelain fillings can last up to 20 years.
Composite resin fillings, on the other hand, don’t last as long. Most estimates put the lifespan of composite resin at around 5-7 years.
Amalgam fillings are somewhere in between, clocking in at a lifespan of about 12 years.
Depending on your budget, needs and expectations, you may prefer one filling material over another. Talk with your dentist about your dental health and options for fillings.
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