A dental filling is a type of restorative dentistry treatment used to repair minimal tooth fractures, tooth decay or otherwise damaged surfaces of the teeth. Dental filling materials, which include composite and porcelain, may be used to even out tooth surfaces for better biting or chewing.
Enamel loss is a common component of tooth decay, and may result in tooth sensitivity. In many cases, tooth sensitivity caused by enamel loss will be significantly improved or completely eliminated once an appropriate dental filling material is placed.
But in some cases, depending on the extent of tooth decay or damage, the affected tooth may require additional or alternative procedures, including:
- dental crowns: teeth requiring more support than offered by a traditional filling may require a dental crown
- dental implants and dental bridges: irreparable tooth damage requiring tooth extraction may require an implant or bridge
- root canals (perhaps along with antibiotic treatment): infected, abscessed or nerve damaged teeth may require a root canal procedure.
The filling procedure
During preventative dental hygiene checkups, or dental emergency visits prompted by a toothache, your dentist evaluates your teeth, gums and supporting bone structure. He identifies the number of tooth surfaces affected by decay or damage, and then prepares the tooth and necessary surrounding areas in order to restore the damaged area. The decay or damage is removed with a dental hand-piece, and the area is cleansed to remove bacteria or debris before the restoration is completed.
The first step in performing a composite filling procedure involves isolation of the tooth. Tooth isolation is critical in a composite restoration, because it prevents moisture from interfering with the bonding process.
The bonding procedure requires the placement of various adhesives followed by the composite material, which is then hardened with a special bonding light. The completed composite restoration is both functional and natural looking.
This technique involves placing a soft or malleable filling into the prepared tooth and building up the tooth before the material sets hard. The advantage of direct restorations is that they usually set quickly and can be placed by one operator. Since the material is required to set while in contact with the tooth, limited energy can be passed to the tooth from the setting process without damaging it. Where strength is required especially as the fillings become larger indirect restorations may be the best choice.
This technique of fabricating the restoration outside of the mouth using the dental impressions of the prepared tooth. Common indirect restorations include inlays and onlays, crowns, bridges, and veneers.
Usually a dental technician fabricates the indirect restoration from records the dentist has provided of the prepared tooth. The finished restoration is usually bonded permanently with a dental cement.
While the indirect restoration is being prepared, a provisory/temporary restoration sometimes is used to cover the prepared part of the tooth, which can help maintain the surrounding dental tissues.
Removable dental prostheses (mainly dentures) are considered by some to be a form of indirect dental restoration, as they are made to replace missing teeth. There are numerous types of precision attachments (also known as combined restorations) to aid removable prosthetic attachment to teeth, including magnets, clips, hooks and implants which could be seen as a form of dental restoration.