FAQ: What You Need to Know About Fillings

missing tooth replacement dental implants arlington heights ilDoes it seem like every time you see your dentist, you’re being told you need another filling? Dentists like Dr. Brent Engelberg of AH Smiles in the Arlington Heights area of greater Chicago want you to know the warning signs that can tell you that you might need a filling, what to expect when getting a filling and how to care for them.

Why Do You Need A Filling?

When food particles and saliva are allowed to form plaque on your teeth for extended periods of time due to improper brushing or because the food is sticky, then a collection of bacteria will gather to feed on it. These bacteria release digestive acids which begin to dissolve the enamel on your teeth when they’re done with the plaque. This enamel — the top layer of the tooth — begins to discolor gradually depending on how much it has dissolved or weakened. If allowed to continue, that portion of the tooth will eventually break away and become what we call a “cavity” — a hole in your tooth’s enamel.

How Do You Recognize Decay?

  • Dark spots or greyish black areas on your front teeth
  • Chipped off areas that your tongue often finds
  • Holes where food becomes stuck

If you see or feel any of the above signs, it may be time to see your dentist.

What Does Decay Feel Like?

It often begins with mild sensitivity to cold or hot liquids or transient sensitivity when eating sweet food. It usually progresses to prolonged sensitivity to hot or cold things, and slight pain when biting or chewing. Eventually, if left untreated, you may feel an electric sensation or sudden sensitivity when eating certain foods and constant pain that lasts for hours and needs medication to be relieved.

How Does the Dentist Choose A Filling?

Filling materials used to be almost exclusively done in silver amalgam and later were made with cements like glass ionomer. But now the most widely used substance is plastic composite, a kind of tooth-colored material that is soft when applied but hardens — chemically bonding to your teeth — when cured with a UV light.

How Much Will It Cost?

Costs of fillings can vary widely on:

  • The material being used by the dentist
  • Skill and experience of the dentist
  • The size of the filling
  • Amount of remaining tooth structure

What Should I Expect After A Filling?

A permanent filling when done with composite allows you to bite and chew immediately afterwards with no precautions. Your tooth is as good as new and you should be unable to see where the filing was done.  However, you might feel some mild to moderate sensitivity in the filled tooth but this should subside within 48 hours. It may take some time to adjust to the feeling of the filling if it is slightly over or under the level of your bite.

Preventing Tooth Decay

Decay or cavities can be prevented by preventive procedures such as applying sealants in the fissures of teeth to prevent food from sticking there or applying fluoride to attract more calcium to reinforce the tooth enamel from breakdown by bacterial acid. Once completed, fillings can be maintained by proper oral hygiene at home including daily brushing, mouthwash and flossing.

How Long Will My Filling Last?

Contrary to popular belief, fillings will not last forever. A filling typically lasts anywhere from 3-7 years but requires annual examinations by a dentist to ensure it’s holding up well. If you see any discoloration, darkening, or chipping under the filling, schedule to see your dentist immediately. These signs indicate a breakdown and the urgent need for replacement of the filling.

If you are in the Chicago, IL area and would like a consultation with Dr. Engelberg about a possible cavity or any dental concern, call (847) 230-9703 or schedule online today!