First, the dentist will numb the area around the tooth to be filled with a local anesthetic. Next, a drill, air abrasion instrument, or laser will be used to remove the decayed area. The choice of instrument depends on the individual dentist's comfort level and training, as well as location and extent of the decay.
Next, 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.
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.
What Types of Filling Materials Are Available?
Today, several dental filling materials are available. Teeth can be filled with gold; porcelain; silver amalgam (which consists of mercury mixed with silver, tin, zinc, and copper); or tooth-colored, plastic and glass materials called composite resin fillings. The location and extent of the decay, cost of filling material, patients' insurance coverage, and your dentist's recommendation assist in determining the type of filling that will best address your needs.
A dental cleaning is a professional cleaning you receive from a dentist or dental hygienist. Most dental cleanings take only between 25 and 30 minutes. Cleanings should be performed every six months to prevent excessive plaque buildup. Plaque left untreated can lead to unhealthy gums and tooth decay. A routine dental cleaning should include scaling, root planing and polishing.
Scaling: this is the process of removing plaque and tartar from all tooth surfaces in a variety of methods, depending on the amount of plaque and tartar.
Dental hygienists traditionally perform scaling by hand. However, new and advanced technology has lead to more modern methods such as electric scalers. This sophisticated tool allows dental cleanings to be performed more efficiently and in less time. To achieve best results, both electric and manual scaling methods are combined for dental cleanings.
Root planing: this is the process of cleaning pockets in the gums to treat and prevent gum problems.
Root planing is used to treat moderate to advanced gum diseases. When the gum is inflamed, gum pockets become deeper and may lose connections to the bone inside. The deeper the pockets, the easier it is for plaque deposits to become trapped and worsen gum problems.
Root planing involves inserting a pointed dental tool called scalers into the gum pockets to clean plaque buildup. Depending on the degree of difficulty, root planing may take several appointments and a local anesthesia may be used to prevent pain.
Polishing: this is the last step in tooth cleaning and involves finishing the surface of the teeth to make them shiny and clean.
There are two kinds of polishing: air polishing and rubber tip polishing. Air polishing works by spraying high pressured water mixed with baking soda paste onto the surface of your teeth. This powered water washes away residue and plaque while baking soda removes stains. Rubber cup polishing uses a low-speed and gentle handpiece that contains a polishing paste made of abrasive ingredients ideal for removing stains.
To treat a cavity your dentist will remove the decayed portion of the tooth and then "fill" the area on the tooth where the decayed material once lived. Fillings are also used to repair cracked or broken teeth and teeth that have been worn down from misuse (such as from nail-biting or tooth grinding).