Signs and symptoms of needing a filling
There are many instances in which a filling is required. Normally dental fillings are needed when there is a cavity caused by one of the following:
- tooth decay (caries) due to sugary diet and bacteria forming acids that dissolve the enamel and dentine. If left untreated, cavities can lead to serious dental problems – including pain, infection and abscess.
- enamel loss due to wear and abrasion causing sensitivity
- fractures caused by trauma
- crack lines due to weak tooth structure and heavy bite or grinding
- a broken or lost filling.
Some symptoms and signs that may indicate a filling is needed:
- Noticeable holes which are seen with the eye or felt with the tongue
- sensitivity to heat or cold or pressure
- pain on biting or chewing
- floss that keeps tearing in a particular gap
- Discolouration or shadowing of tooth surfaces.
- rough tooth surface.
Because most cavities start silently, without symptoms or pain, it is important to see your dentist for regular check-ups and dental care. Your dentist will manually examine your mouth and if necessary take X-rays to check between your teeth.
Fillings serve to stop further tooth decay and restore the function, integrity and morphology of the missing tooth structure.
Five different types of filling materials are used:
- composite resins that are tooth coloured fillings
- ionomers – also tooth coloured fillings that release small amounts of fluoride
- ceramic/porcelain fillings – which are custom produced for larger fillings that need external surfaces of the tooth covered.
The right filling choice for you will depend on your dentist’s recommendation and your personal preference and budget.
In general, placing a filling involves four stages:
- Anaesthetic (optional). The area is made numb to minimise discomfort during the procedure.
- Preparation of tooth. The tooth is prepped by removing decay/caries/old fillings or re-shaping the damaged tooth. It is then cleaned and dried.
- Filling the tooth. Filling material of choice is placed to fill the cavity.
- The last step is to adjust the filling to ensure correct bite and polish to a smooth surface.
After the procedure, the anaesthesia will wear off in a couple of hours. Avoid hot food and drinks to prevent scalding your mouth or accidentally biting into your cheek or tongue while it is numb. Sometimes you may experience transient sensitivity, especially when the cavity is deep and close to the nerve. This sensitivity typically decreases and settles. If you experience significant discomfort, do not hesitate to contact your dentist.