According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, 59% of adolescents age 12 to 19 have dental caries in their permanent teeth. Most teens will have several fillings before they graduate high school. It’s not uncommon for a teen to get their first filling at a very young age.
Fillings are such a common dental restoration, yet many of our patients know very little about what is actually going on in their teeth and what a filling does.
When Fillings are Needed
Fillings are used to restore your tooth when decay is present. Decay (a cavity) happens when bacteria collect on your tooth’s surface and feed on leftover food particles. Through that process of feasting, the bacteria create an acidic byproduct that weakens your tooth enamel and creates a small hole. That hole will continue to grow and deepen until we step in to remove the decay and fill the cavity.
If a cavity was left untreated, it would continue to grow until it reached the root and nerve of your tooth. By that point, your entire tooth is infected, and a root canal is necessary. Believe us when we say that a tooth-colored filling is a welcome alternative to a root canal.
Types of Filling Material
Fillings have been used for a very long time as a means to restore your tooth back to health. The filling’s job is to fill the space left behind by the cavity and act as a part of your tooth. It should be comfortable while you chew, and blend into your smile.
Early fillings were made completely of a softened metal. A dentist might use gold, silver, or tin to fill the space left behind in a tooth. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the classic amalgam filling was made. An amalgam filling is made up of silver, tin, copper, and mercury.
Dentists have been using amalgam fillings ever since. However, most patients now prefer the more aesthetically pleasing composite filling option. These fillings are made of bonding material that can be carefully molded into your tooth to create a lasting restoration. Not only does it function well, but it blends perfectly with the rest of your smile as well!
In some cases, we have patients who request amalgam fillings for one reason or another. We have no problem fulfilling these requests. Though many patients are nervous about the mercury in an amalgam filling, the ADA (and many other dentists) believes that there is no real concern for your health.
Of course, your goal is probably to avoid dental fillings whenever possible. We can’t say that we blame you! Though it is nice to know that a tooth-colored filling is there when you need it, it is much better to avoid it altogether. You can do this through your oral hygiene routine. This routine should include brushing, flossing, and visiting our office for routine cleanings at least every six months.
If it’s time for your next appointment, give us a call at (503) 305-5051 or contact us using our online form. Our talented staff is ready to make your appointment comfortable and successful. Call today so that we can get you on the schedule and help you have a happier, healthier smile!