Des Moines Fillings

Fillings Q & A

Fillings are one of the least invasive treatment options to treat a cavity, to repair cracked or broken teeth, or repair worn down teeth.

What are the pros and cons of each different types of fillings?

There are two main types of filling materials:  silver and white (or tooth colored).  There is no one best choice—the choice depends on each patient and factors affecting that patient.  Silver fillings are usually recommended to patients that are on a budget, who are not taking care of their teeth with proper brushing, flossing, or routine checkups, and who aren’t aesthetically concern with how their teeth looks. 

White fillings are usually recommended to patients with very small or large cavities, who floss and brush daily, and who are aesthetically conscious about how their teeth looks.  White fillings requires less tooth removal and therefore preserves more tooth structure.  During your filling appointment, your dentist will go over his recommendation on which filling material is right for you and your teeth.

How long does it take to fill a cavity?

It depends.  The time depends on how many teeth needs to be filled, the type of filling used, and the location and size of the cavity to be filled.  Generally, tooth colored fillings take longer than silver fillings.  A small cavity caught in its early stage will be a small and simple filling that can take five to ten minutes.  A larger filling can take 45 minutes or longer, depending what direction the appointment takes. 

For example, a large cavity may infect the nerve of your tooth that may need root canal, which can lengthen your appointment time further.  Your dentist will generally schedule all filling appointment for at least one hour; he may not need the whole hour but he will have time if he needs more time.

What should I expect before, during, and after the filling appointment?

Your dentist will begin by numbing your tooth to be filled so that you will be comfortable and be pain-free.  Your dentist will ask you if you have a preference for a white filling or a silver filling and he will keep your preference in mind as he is removing decay and cutting out your tooth for your new filling.  After your dentist removes all of the decay and cleans your tooth, he will go over the pros and cons of each type of filling material then you and your dentist will decide together what option is best for you. 

After your filling appointment, you can remain numb for a few hours.  Eating right away will not affect white fillings, because they are hardened using a special curing light.  Silver fillings hardened over time, so you must wait 24 hours before eating solid or hard foods to prevent a fracture of your new silver filling.  Cold sensitivity can be normal for the first few weeks lasting a few seconds at a time, but can take a few weeks to completely resolve.

How do I take care of my fillings?

Proper flossing, brushing at least twice a day, and seeing your dentist for routine checkups yearly will ensure that your fillings will last a long time.  The bacteria in your mouth feeds off the foods you eat so be mindful to limit consumption of sugary and acidic foods and beverages.  Over time, fillings will naturally break down and leak around its edges. 

Fluoride treatments during your cleaning appointments will strengthen your enamel and will prolong the life of your fillings.  If you have fillings between your teeth, it is imperative to floss in order to prevent cavities from starting under your existing fillings.  For patients who grind their teeth, a night guard may be recommended to prevent pre-mature wear on the fillings.

How long do fillings last and what can I do to make my fillings last longer?

There are many factors that can influence the life of fillings.  The type, size, and location can have an effect on longevity.  Diet and oral hygiene plays a role as well.  Foods and drinks high in sugar and acidity will break down the edges of fillings which can lead to another cavity underneath the filling.  A healthy and balanced diet along with proper flossing, brushing, and routine visits to your dentist will ensure that you will get the most use from your fillings. 

Fluoride treatments strengthen weakened enamel and your dentist may recommend fluoride treatments for you if he feels you are at risk of getting cavities.  Fluoride treatments will also prolong the life of your fillings.

A final word from Dr. Trung Phan:

Throughout your filling procedure, you may have questions that are not covered above.  We will make sure to answer all of your questions and make sure you are comfortable during your filling treatment.  We love getting questions from our patients!  Our goal is to help you preserve your natural smile for a lifetime, because your smile is your best asset!