Feeling Your Way Through Dental Fillings

By: Sharon Bell
Drivers are no strangers to potholes - those circular holes in the road that can make driving an unpleasant experience. These are common during the rainy season and cause slow traffic and bad-tempered drivers.

To repair these holes, they're usually filled with asphalt - a brownish-black liquid material that hardens as it cools. In a way, your dentist does the same thing.

If a cavity has messed up your tooth and has made eating painful and difficult, your dentist will patch it up with a dental filling. The area of the tooth to be repaired is numbed with a local anesthetic and a drill, air abrasion instrument or laser is used to remove the decayed material and clean the area.

"Your dentist will probe or test the area during the decay removal process to determine if all the decay has been removed. Once the decay has been removed, your dentist will prepare the space for the filling by cleaning the cavity of bacteria and debris. If the decay is near the root, your dentist may first put in a liner made of glass ionomer, composite resin, or other material to protect the nerve. Generally, after the filling is in, your dentist will finish and polish it," said the editors of WebMD.Com and the Cleveland Clinic Department of Dentistry.

"Several additional steps are required for tooth-colored fillings and are as follows. After your dentist has removed the decay and cleaned the area, the tooth-colored material is applied in layers. Next, a special light that 'cures' or hardens each layer is applied. When the multilayering process is completed, your dentist will shape the composite material to the desired result, trim off any excess material and polish the final restoration," they added.

Aside from cavities, dental fillings are used to repair cracked or broken teeth as well as teeth that have been worn down due to nail-biting or bruxism (tooth grinding). Several filling materials are available. These include gold, porcelain, silver amalgam or tooth-colored plastic and glass materials called composite resin fillings.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of these materials? This series will tell you what to expect from each filling and hopefully help you find one that meets your personal needs. (Next: Qualities of good dental fillings.)

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