Even though dentistry is always changing, filling teeth is still how we spend most of our day. The most common reason we do fillings is to treat cavities, but we can also use fillings to rebuild chipped or broken teeth. We can even close small spaces between teeth or cover over lightly discolored areas.
For some people cavities show up often, while for many others it’s just an every-once-in-awhile kind of a thing. Years ago, before fluoride was widely used, they were a lot more common. They even looked different back then. Large holes would develop on the outer layer of a tooth that patients could easily see, and this is what often brought them in to see a dentist.
Now, with generations of people having grown up with fluoride-strengthened enamel, a lot of cavities start out as a small pinhole on the tooth’s surface, and can grow to be large without you even noticing it. With these cavities, by the time you see them they’re likely very deep and close to the nerve of your tooth. Later, when they start to hurt, they’re probably past the point of a simple filling.
Fortunately, technology has changed too. This is why it’s so important to see your dentist regularly. We have more tools today to find cavities when they’re small and easy (for both you and us) to treat. In almost all cases, your filling can be white and match your tooth. The sensitivity that used to be common with tooth-colored fillings has also improved, so it’s not commonly an issue any more.
If cavities are the most common reason to need a filling, then a chipped tooth is a close second. When the chip is small-to-medium sized, we can sculpt a tooth-colored bonding to make your chipped tooth look like a tooth again. In most cases, this can be done without the need for shots. In the same way we can use dental bondings to close small spaces between teeth or lengthen teeth that have worn down over the years.
We follow the opinion of the American Dental Association that silver (aka amalgam) fillings are still a safe and viable option. Due to the advances in white fillings, though, we just don’t use silver very much anymore. Since silver fillings that are already in your teeth can last a long time, when possible we just let them be! When they eventually begin to chip or lose their seal (often after several decades of service) then we usually replace them with a tooth-colored option. Some people like to remove them for cosmetic reasons, and that’s fine too.
Many small fillings can be done without any shots, especially if your teeth aren’t sensitive to things like coffee or ice cream. Anything larger though, we make sure to get you completely numb. If you feel anything painful, we’ll stop immediately and figure out how to get you more comfortable before going on. In most cases it’s just air, water, and vibration. If you have any questions you existing fillings, or think you need a new one, call us today!