About Nu Dentistry

The Ins and Outs of Your Tooth Filling In Houston, TX

When cavities strike, our dentists may repair the damage with a dental filling. See how the process is done…

By Jennifer
Photography by Pete

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Toothaches, cracked and chipped teeth, and discolored tooth spots can all point to one thing: you may need a dental filling. Fillings are used to treat and rebuild a tooth after cavities and dental injuries. They are most commonly used to treat dental decay as dental plaque and bacteria can quickly cause small holes and pits in the tooth’s surface that need filling. Nearly everyone will develop at least one cavity in their lifetime, with many people having between 4 and 10 in their lifetime, on average. Prompt filling treatment can stop the infection from advancing further and reinforce the tooth against further tooth damage.

Cavities don’t appear on their own. They take time to develop and often come with warning signs to let you know that your tooth’s health is in danger. The first tooth decay symptoms include white spots on the tooth’s surface as the enamel is demineralized and weakened by dental plaque. During the white spots phase, tooth decay doesn’t yet need a dental filling. Instead, brushing, flossing, and fluoride products can help reverse the damage. However, once decay creates a hole in the tooth, the damage becomes permanent. You’ll need to see a dentist for a professional dental filling.

What does a decayed tooth look like? Your dentist may recommend a tooth filling if you experience the following cavity-stage symptoms:

  • Sharp and persistent toothache
  • Cavity pain when eating
  • Lousy breath that doesn’t go away
  • White tooth spots growing darker
  • Visible pit in the tooth

The Dental Filling Process

Before we begin treatment, our dentists will need to conduct a thorough oral examination to identify the extent of your offending tooth’s decay. With an accurate understanding of your dental cavity, we can plan and choose the best treatment. Standard dental fillings are performed when dental decay only reaches the first two layers of the tooth: the enamel and the dentin. Cavities at the last and deepest layer, the pulp, will instead need a root canal. Root canals can be sealed with a filling, but a dental crown is used more often than not.

With fillings, our dentists will first apply a local anesthetic to the tooth and gums, ensuring you’ll remain relaxed and pain-free throughout the procedure. When you’re numbed, we’ll then begin removing the infected parts of the tooth. Once the decay is completely gone, the dentist will move on with filling the dental cavity. At our clinic, we use tooth-colored composite resin. Composite is applied in thin layers. Each layer is cured using UV light exposure. This hardens the filling and fully seals the inner tooth against future decay and oral bacteria.

Once the tooth is properly built up, we can start shaping the composite to match your old bite’s original fit and feel. When we’re done, your tooth will look and work like it had pre-cavity. Is it normal to feel a filling? Yes. Even after shaping your filling, it may feel rough against your tongue over the next few days. However, it will quickly wear and smooth down. It will look and feel exactly like your tooth’s enamel. If you still noticeably feel your dental work after a week, please get in touch with our office to schedule an appointment. Your dentist will remove the excess composite and reshape the filling so that it fits as it should.

If you have any questions or concerns about your dental filling procedure, we urge you to talk to us beforehand. Our friendly dental professionals want you to feel entirely confident and secure with your upcoming treatment. We will ensure that all your questions are answered and your procedure happens in a comfortable and pleasant environment.

What Do Dentists Use To Fill Cavities?

Traditionally, dentists used silver amalgam for dental fillings. However, silver amalgam has been largely abandoned by most dental offices for three main reasons:

  1. It isn’t invisible like composite resin. Its metallic silver-gray appearance makes fillings easy to notice, ruining your teeth’s appearance.
  2. Amalgam fillings are half made of liquid mercury, which many patients are understandably concerned about for their health.
  3. Amalgam continuously expands and contracts when exposed to heat and cold. Since the tooth doesn’t expand and contract with the filling, the tooth can eventually crack and break over time.

At Nu Dentistry, our dentists only use dental composite bonding in our filling procedures. Composite fillings are made of biocompatible resins that are durable and, more importantly, can be color-matched to be impossible to tell apart from natural enamel. Composite is metal-free and uses safe materials, so there are no dental or general health concerns. Moreover, dental composites require less enamel to be removed to fit them. It also can better replicate your old tooth’s structure and anatomy for a more natural fit and feel.

How long do fillings last? Composite fillings typically last five to seven years. However, with good care and dental hygiene, your dental filling can stay in great shape for more than a decade.

Do All Cavities Need Fillings?

The short answer is NO. Before a cavity forms, you can reverse early tooth decay with the help of fluoride treatment and some healthy brushing and flossing habits. No professional dental work is needed. Once a dental cavity appears, it will require a filling. However, without treatment, cavities won’t stop once they begin. They’ll eventually outgrow what tooth fillings can fix. Your dentist may instead recommend an inlay or onlay, which can repair more extensive surface-level damage on back teeth.

In some cases, even inlays and onlays won’t fully restore a tooth’s functionality once the decay extends far or deep enough. A dentist may need to perform a dental crown procedure instead. During this procedure, the decay will be removed similarly to a dental filling. Once the tooth is cavity-free, the enamel is trimmed and reshaped to fit the crown. A temporary crown or filling is typically needed while a more permanent crown is being made. This temporary filling or crown will last the two or three weeks required for the permanent crown to be ready.

Dental decay that reaches the tooth’s central dental pulp will need a root canal. Root canals can include clearing out an entire tooth’s root, depending on the level of decay and damage. The hollowed-out tooth will need to be sealed and reinforced with a filling or dental crown. Crowns are usually the go-to restoration. They are more durable and can better protect your tooth, which will be more brittle and injury-prone after the root canal.

How Much Does A Cavity Filling Cost?

Typically, the type of dental filling material can affect your treatment’s cost. However, at Nu Dentistry, we only perform composite fillings to ensure your smile looks and feels its best. Your cavity filling may range in price due to these factors:

  • Number of teeth requiring tooth decay treatment
  • Location of tooth needing filling
  • Size of the cavity
  • Whether a temporary tooth filling is needed
  • Your dental insurance plan

Most dental insurance providers consider dental fillings a “basic” treatment, so they will cover most of the cost. Depending on your specific plan, your insurance will usually provide 70 to 80% of your cavity filling cost. If you don’t have dental insurance or need help covering the rest of your treatment, our dental office also offers alternative financing options. This includes in-house financing options to ensure our patients always have access to affordable dental care.

If you’re experiencing cavity pain, don’t wait until it’s too late to get a dental filling! Please call our dental office at (832) 916-4144 today to schedule an appointment with our skilled emergency team.

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