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Cavities and fillings are some of the most common reasons to visit your dentist. It usually starts as a little bit of sensitivity but can grow to become more painful over time, and if left untreated can lead to more extensive and costly treatment. Most cavities can easily be caught by your dentist during regular check-up appointments, or if needed during an emergency appointment.

While fillings don’t usually require emergency dental care, there are some rare instances when you need to see your, dentist immediately. If you have any of the following symptoms, book an appointment immediately:

  • Severe toothache
  • A toothache that lasts more than two days
  • A toothache with fever or pain in your ear
  • Severe pain when drinking cold beverages
  • Pain in a tooth that has an old filling

If a cavity grows deep, a simple filling might not be enough. If the decay becomes too large, or if the cavity exposes any of the tooth’s nerves you may need a root canal or crown to repair the tooth. In more rare cases sometimes the tooth can become so compromised that the tooth can no longer be saved and a extraction would be required.

If you already have fillings, yearly appointments will allow your dentist to monitor these fillings and watch for any signs of wear or damage. Like anything, fillings will wear down over long periods of time, becoming loose or broken. When your filling needs to be repaired or replaced, your regular checkup will let the dentist know before pain and discomfort become an issue.

Types of Fillings

There are two common types of fillings for cavities, amalgam and composite resin. Amalgam fillings are tough, durable fillings made from a composition of different metals such as silver, copper, and tin. Composite resin fillings are newer and can be colored to match your teeth, unlike the silver of amalgam fillings. These are made by a mixture of plastic and glass to make a strong filling for any tooth, front, or back.

White Fillings (Composite)

A composite (tooth-colored) filling is used to repair a tooth that is affected by decay, cracks, fractures, etc. The decayed or affected portion of the tooth will be removed and then filled with a composite filling.

There are many types of filling materials available, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. You and the dentist can discuss the best options for restoring your teeth. Composite fillings, along with silver amalgam fillings, are the most widely used today. Because composite fillings are tooth-colored, they can be closely matched to the color of existing teeth, and are more aesthetically suited for use in front teeth or the more visible areas of the teeth.

As with most dental restorations, composite fillings are not permanent and may someday have to be replaced.

Who Needs Dental Fillings?

If your teeth are chipped, cracked, or damaged by tooth decay, they need fillings. Large cavities are obvious and often painful, but small pinhole cavities and hard-to-see areas between teeth may also need attention.

Your dentist can find cavities and sites of tooth decay that you may not see in the mirror. X-rays, dental probes, and dyes can reveal areas that need dental restoration. Your dentist can also see areas that you may not be able to spot, which is one reason why regular dental check-ups are vital for your oral health.

Although cavities are the most common reason for fillings, they are not the only reason your dentist may recommend reconstructive work. If you grind your teeth, bite your nails or use your teeth as tools, you may erode the chewing surfaces enough to require a filling to restore a healthy bite.

Signs that you may need a filling include:

  • Visible holes or dark spots on teeth
  • Visible chips or cracks
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold
  • Sharp pain when biting down on the affected tooth
  • Constant dull pain or ache

What Are Some Other Options?

If you’re nervous about getting a filling done, or have a child with some areas of decay on their teeth, then Silver Diamine Fluoride might be an additional option.

Silver Diamine Fluoride is a liquid that can be painted onto cavities to help slow down the decay. It is a non-invasive, needle-free treatment that uses antimicrobial silver ions to help arrest tooth decay, and fluoride ions to prevent further demineralization. The procedure is two quick 15 minute appointments, one to two weeks apart. It is often recommended by your dentist or hygienist when they see a breakdown of enamel beginning to occur.