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FAQ: The Facts About Fillings

Dental fillings in Columbia MarylandDo you feel like you find out you need another filling every time you go to the dentist? Dentists like Dr. Ray Becker of Howard County Smiles Family Dentistry in Columbia, MD want you to know the warning signs that can tell you that you may need a filling, what to expect when getting a filling and how to care for them.

Why Do You Need A Filling?

When food particles and saliva combine to form plaque, a sticky, clear substance that binds to your teeth. And that plaque is allowed to remain in contact with your teeth for extended periods of time due to brushing incorrectly or because the food is sticky, then bacteria will begin accumulating.

These bacteria release acids which begin to dissolve the enamel. The enamel, the hard outer layer of the tooth, begins to discolor gradually depending on how much it has dissolved or weakened. If this process is allowed to continue, part of the tooth’s enamel will eventually chip away and become what we call a “cavity”. In other words, a hole in your tooth’s enamel.

How Do You Recognize Decay?

  • Dark spots or grey-ish black areas on your front teeth
  • Chipped off areas that your tongue finds often
  • Holes where food gets stuck

If you look into your mouth and see or feel any of the above, it might be time to see your dentist.

But what does decay feel like? How do we know that a cavity might be forming. It often begins with mild sensitivity to cold or hot liquids or transient sensitivity when eating sweet food. It can then progress to prolonged sensitivity to hot or cold things, and slight pain when biting or chewing.

Eventually, you may feel an electric sensation or sudden sensitivity when eating certain foods and chronic pain that lasts for hours and may needs medication to be relieved.

How Does the Dentist Choose A Filling?

Filling materials were once almost always a silver amalgam but later were done with cements like glass ionomer once they became an affordable alternative. These days, the most widely used substance is plastic composite, a kind of tooth-colored material that is soft when molded into the cavity but hardens while also chemically bonding to your teeth when cured with a UV light.

How Much Will It Cost?

Costs of fillings can vary widely on:

  • The material the filling consists of
  • The skill and experience of the dentist
  • The size of the filling
  • Amount of remaining tooth structure

What Should I Expect After A Filling?

When fillings are done with composite, you should be able to eat immediately afterwards with no precautions. Your tooth should look and feel as good as new and you shouldn’t be able to see where the filing was done. There may be some mild to moderate sensitivity in the tooth that has just been treated but that should subside within 48 hours. It may take some additional time and wear to adjust if the filling is slightly over or under the level of your bite.

Preventing Tooth Decay

Decay or cavities can be prevented by procedures such as applying sealants in the fissures of teeth to prevent food lodging in teeth. Applying fluoride to attract more calcium and protect the tooth from breakdown by bacterial acid can also be an effective preventative. Once completed, fillings can be maintained by proper home oral hygiene including daily brushing, mouthwash and flossing.

How Long Will My Filling Last?

Fillings do not last forever, contrary to popular belief. A filling usually lasts anywhere from 3-7 years on average but you will need to attend regular annual dental examinations to make certain it’s holding up well. If you see any discoloration, darkening, or chipping under the filling, schedule to see your dentist immediately. These signs may indicate breakdown of the existing filling and the need to have it replaced..

If you are in the Columbia, MD area and would like a consultation with Dr. Becker about a possible cavity or any dental concern, call 410.415.9013 or schedule online today!