Primarily due to poor oral hygiene practices or medical conditions that promote chronic dry mouth, dental caries (cavities) develop when bacteria accumulate and start decomposing tooth structure by creating acids from food proteins remaining on and between teeth.
Neglecting to treat cavities with composite or ceramic fillings allows pits and holes to continue enlarging until the entire tooth is engulfed in decay. Once the cavity reaches the tooth’s sensitive inner pulp, pain and swelling occurs as air, food and temperature changes irritate the pulp.
Consequences of unfilled cavities include infection, abscesses or extraction of the damaged tooth. A root canal may save a badly decayed tooth but the procedure is not a guarantee the tooth can be restored successfully.
Steps to Filling a Cavity
Before filling a cavity, Dr. Rinando:
- Numbs the tooth with a local anesthetic
- Removes decay and cleans the cavity
- If the cavity is deep, she may place a “liner” inside the cavity that helps reduce tooth sensitivity. Liners made of dycal contain calcium hydroxide, a substance that also stimulates dentin to help regenerate dental pulp
- Fills the cavity with ceramic or composite filling material
Made from a composite resin containing silicon dioxide, tooth colored, composite fillings have the same texture and appearance of natural dental enamel. In addition to filling cavities, composites are also used in cosmetic dentistry to reshape teeth that have become disfigured by chips, cracks or erosion.
Composite fillings provide better functionality than silver amalgam fillings because they fuse to the tooth instead of simply resting in the cavity. Unlike silver fillings that adapt to a cavity’s dimensions but do not bond with the tooth. composite fillings are made with materials that support the natural bonding process, an action that inhibits further decay of the tooth and promotes adhesion to prevent filling loss.
Composites also make perfect fillings for cavities affecting visible teeth, such as front teeth, canine teeth or premolars.
Ceramic (porcelain) fillings are strong, durable, enamel colored and a bit more resistant to abrasion and staining than composite fillings. Although composite fillings come in different shades of white, ceramic fillings have a luster and brilliance to them that composites do not, which allows them to seamlessly blend with tooth enamel to the point of being indistinguishable from natural enamel.
Unlike silver amalgam fillings that expand and contract in response to temperature or structural changes, porcelain fillings stay the same shape and size to help preserve the integrity of a tooth while remaining securely affixed in the cavity.
Aftercare for New Composite or Ceramic Fillings
Patients can eat or drink as soon as the anesthesia wears off and normal feeling returns to the lips, tongue and mouth area. Post-treatment sensitivity to cold is possible. This is a normal reaction and may be relieved by using sensitivity protection toothpastes. Avoid using whitening products until the tooth is no longer sensitive to cold food items.
New fillings require the same good oral hygiene practices necessary for maintaining healthy teeth and gums–brushing and flossing twice daily and using a fluoridated rinse.