At a Glance
If decay (cavities) are found on the teeth during an examination, it is important to stop the decay, and protect the tooth moving forward. Decayed material is removed from the tooth, and a filling is placed to protect the tooth from any additional bacteria or infection that could cause further decay. Often, fillings will last for many years. In the past, metals were used for fillings. Today, tooth colored materials are used that maintain the color of the tooth, and look invisible to people who admire your smile. Filling material is used to fill the gap, and it bonds and hardens to the tooth.
Why consider this procedure
If a cavity isn’t removed, decay will continue to infect the tooth. Eventually, the root of the tooth will be affected, and the tooth must be “extracted” (pulled). Often when decay enters the root, the patient can experience tooth hot/cold sensitivity, and eventually pain if allowed to continue long enough. If the tooth is extracted, dentures, bridges, or dental implants must be substituted for missing tooth to ensure correct chewing, as well as to stop any bone loss that may occur to the jaw in the absence of missing teeth.
What to anticipate during the procedure
At the start of the filling process, the dentist will numb the area to be treated by applying a numbing gel before injecting it with an anesthesia. After a few minutes, the injected area of the mouth begins to numb. The dentist will then remove the decay within the tooth with a drill. The decayed area is then replaced with a filling, shaped, smoothed, and modified to ensure a correct bite.
What to anticipate after the procedure
Fortunately, patients who have dental sealants can return to their daily routines with no pain or changes to their daily life. Often, local anesthesia used to reduce pain can cause the gums and lips to be numb for a few hours after the procedure is complete. Therefore, a patient must be careful not to accidentally chew their lips or cheeks while the numbness wears off. Anesthesia often gives the patient a “tingling sensation” associated with the numbness that will pass as the anesthesia wears off. Patients should continue a normal routine of Dental Exams and Dental Cleanings, as well as twice daily brushing and flossing of teeth.