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Tooth Filling In Houston, TX: Frequently Asked Questions

What you need to know about treating your tooth with a dental filling when cavities strike…

By Jennifer
Photography by Pete

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Cavities are one of the most common health problems faced around the world. It’s almost guaranteed that you will develop at least one at some point in your life. The average American will have anywhere between four and ten cavities in their lifetime. Current studies show that at least 1 in 4 adults in the U.S. currently have untreated tooth decay. As universal as cavities are, it’s essential to know what is happening with your smile and how you can fix it.

At Nu Dentistry, many of our patients have questions about cavities and dental fillings. Let’s go over some of the most frequently asked ones our dentists get:

What Is A Cavity?

A dental cavity is often used synonymously with tooth decay, but there is a distinction. Tooth decay is a dental disease caused by plaque and bacteria weakening and eroding your tooth. It first starts with demineralizing the tooth’s enamel surface, typically appearing as white spots. Without minerals like calcium to boost the tooth’s defenses, dental decay can begin breaking down the enamel and eventually make its way throughout the entire tooth.

Cavities are the physical pits in a tooth’s surface that are eventually caused by dental decay once it starts wearing down the enamel. Once a cavity develops, the damage to your tooth becomes permanent. It can also be quite painful as the decay in these later stages destroys the inner tooth’s more sensitive parts, such as the dentin and dental pulp layers. Toothaches are especially common once the cavity reaches the centermost pulp layer since this is where the tooth’s blood vessels and nerves are.

What Does A Cavity Look Like?

Tooth decay symptoms can range depending on the severity. As already mentioned, first-stage dental decay is only visible by the white, chalky patches it leaves on the tooth’s surface from demineralization. Once a cavity forms, it can be spotted by the physical hole or chip it creates in the enamel. Additionally, the white spots on the teeth can gradually darken, turning brown, gray, or even black. With dental X-rays, cavities appear as darker spots and shadows on the teeth.

However, a tooth cavity isn’t just noticed by the visible evidence it leaves behind. There are several other common warning signs to keep an eye out for:

  • Persistent toothache, which may come and go
  • Cavity pain when eating
  • Halitosis (frequent bad breath)
  • Sharp tooth sensitivity to hot and cold
  • Lingering sensitivity to sweets

If all tooth pain suddenly disappears and doesn’t return, it can be signify that your cavity has killed the tooth. If this happens, you shouldn’t wait to see our dentists for immediate attention. Fast, responsive treatment can save your tooth and prevent otherwise necessary tooth extraction.

Can I Brush Away a Cavity?

You can reverse pre-cavity tooth decay with fluoride treatment and great brushing and flossing. However, dental cavities aren’t so easily fixable. The missing enamel won’t heal or reappear on its own, and the tooth will instead need professional tooth decay treatment. A dentist will remove the infected parts of the tooth before filling in the hole left behind. With small dental cavities, this is usually a dental filling. However, later tooth decay stages will require more extensive treatment than a simple filling, such as a dental crown or root canal.

What Will Happen If a Cavity Is Left Untreated?

Untreated dental cavities can wreak havoc on both your oral and overall health. They will stop at nothing to gradually destroy the tooth’s enamel, dentin, and pulp layers. Tooth decay will continue moving its way down the tooth’s roots until the entire tooth is infected. This infection can eventually spill out of the tooth’s tip into the surrounding gum tissues to create a pocket of pus called a tooth abscess. At this late stage, only a root canal can save your tooth.

Without immediate treatment, the tooth will die, even as oral bacteria spread to the jawbone and nearby soft tissues and teeth. The bacteria can also find their way to the bloodstream, where they travel throughout the body. Patients with a history of frequent and severe cavities have an increased risk of heart problems, stroke, pneumonia, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and pregnancy complications.

How Is a Filling Done?

The dental filling procedure is straightforward and generally completed in a single 30 to 60-minute visit. First, our dentist will perform a complete dental examination to understand the cavity’s full extent. Then we will begin removing the infected parts of the tooth with the help of a dental drill. This process is painless. We will apply a local anesthetic beforehand, so your tooth will be numb as we work. Patients can also request dental sedation like nitrous oxide, which provides more all-encompassing comfort and peace of mind throughout your procedure.

Once the decay is gone, we will clean and dry the tooth before filling it with composite resin. The composite used is color-matched to the rest of your tooth, so your restored tooth will look entirely natural. Composite fillings rebuild the lost parts of the tooth in layers. After each layer, the dental composite is exposed to UV light and hardened. With your tooth filled, we will then reshape and polish it to match its original look and bite.

How Many Years Do Fillings Last?

Composite dental fillings have a typical lifespan of about 5 to 10 years. Their longevity depends on your daily habits and how well you maintain your oral hygiene. By brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing daily, you can keep your fillings in better shape. You should also do your best to avoid sugary foods and drinks like candies, chocolates, and colas. They can also contribute to further tooth decay and filling damage. Additionally, please be cautious not to bite down on hard objects, which can crack or break a filling if you’re not careful.

Why Can I Feel My Filling With My Tongue?

At first, your dental filling may feel a little rough against your tongue. However, the composite will smooth out over the next few days, and you will soon adjust to it. If you can still detect the filling after a week, there may be extra composite filling used. This isn’t a health risk, but it can be too obvious or uncomfortable for some patients. Please don’t hesitate to contact our dental office and schedule an appointment. Our dentists can then reshape the filling to its intended size and shape for a more seamless experience.

Does Going to the Dentist Prevent Cavities?

YES! Regular dental cleanings every six months can be crucial for preventing cavities and reversing early tooth decay. That’s why these appointments are considered preventive dentistry. Even with excellent brushing and flossing, dental plaque, tartar, and bacteria can still gradually collect on your teeth over months and years. Cleaning appointments scrape the tooth clean, stopping any buildup from eventually turning into tooth decay and cavities. In some cases, your dentist may recommend fluoride treatment to remineralize your teeth against existing early decay, restoring the tooth to its old self.

Dental exams are also essential for finding decay and other dental health problems and treating them as promptly as possible. The earlier your cavities are found, the better. As previously stated, cavities will only get worse without professional treatment. Earlier detection can often mean less extensive treatments, like small fillings rather than crowns and root canals.

How Much Should A Filling Cost?

Your cavity filling cost depends on several factors, including the number of teeth, the cavity’s size and location on the tooth, the type of tooth, and the materials used. Depending on the cavity’s severity, you may need additional visits and treatments to restore your tooth. These will also add to your treatment’s cost. However, dental insurance can significantly cut the price of your dental filling. Many plans typically cover about 80%, though some may provide as much as the total cost. If you have any questions about your plan’s coverage, our dentists are here to help.

Do you have a dental cavity? Please don’t wait until it’s too late to have yours seen by our expert Houston dentists! Reach out to us today at (832) 916-4144 to schedule an appointment with our team.

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