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What to Know About Dental Fillings

family dentist chapel hillDo you feel like every time you go to the dentist, you’re being told you need a filling? You may wonder why you need them.

Dentists like Dr. James P. Furgurson of Chapel Hill Family & Cosmetic Dentistry in Chapel Hill, NC 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 plaque are allowed to stick to your teeth for extended periods of time, usually due to infrequent or improper brushing, then a collection of bacteria will accumulate to feed on it. These bacteria release acids which in addition to dissolving plaque begin to erode the enamel. This 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, that portion of the tooth will eventually break away forming a “cavity” — a hole in your tooth’s enamel.

How Do You Recognize Decay?

  • Dark spots or greyish black areas on your front teeth
  • Chipped off areas that your tongue often goes into
  • Holes where food gets stuck

If you see or are experiencing any of the above, it may be time to see your dentist.

What Does Decay Feel Like?

It can begin with mild sensitivity to cold or hot liquids or transient sensitivity when eating sweet food. It usually progresses to prolonged sensitivity to hot or cold things, and slight pain when biting or chewing. Eventually, if it continues untreated, you may feel an electric sensation or sudden sensitivity to certain foods and constant pain that lasts for hours and needs medication to be relieved.

How Does the Dentist Choose A Filling?

Early filling materials were usually silver amalgam. Later, fillings were made of cements like glass ionomer. In the modern era, the most commonly used substance is plastic composite resin, a kind of tooth-colored material that is soft when it is being applied but hardens, 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 being used by the dentist
  • Skill and experience of the dentist
  • The size of the filling
  • Amount of remaining tooth structure

What Should I Expect After A Filling?

A permanent filling made of composite resin allows you to eat immediately afterwards without restrictions. Your tooth is as good as new and you should be unable to see where the filing was inserted. You may feel some mild to moderate sensitivity in the filled tooth which should subside within 48 hours. It may take some 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 preventive procedures such as applying sealants in the fissures of teeth to prevent food lodging in teeth or applying fluoride to attract more calcium and protect the tooth from breakdown by bacterial acid. Once done, fillings can be maintained by proper oral hygiene at home including daily brushing, mouthwash and flossing.

How Long Will My Filling Last?

Contrary to popular belief, fillings do not last forever, instead usually lasting anywhere from 3-7 years on average. However, they do require annual examinations to ensure they are holding up well. If you see any discoloration, darkening, or chipping under the filling, schedule an appointment with Dr. Furgurson or your area dentist immediately. These signs show a breakdown and indicate the need for replacement of the filling.

If you are in the Chapel Hill, NC area and would like a consultation with Dr. Furgurson about a possible cavity or any dental concern, call 919.736.6175 or schedule online today!