Dental Fillings: What to Expect at a General Dentistry Appointment

woman receiving dental fillings while sitting in dental chair
Image of woman receiving dental fillings while sitting in the dental chair.

Did you know that dental anxiety affects more than one-third of the population? Being afraid of the dentist can lead to avoiding dental appointments and can impact your oral hygiene in the long run.

If you suspect you have a cavity, your imagination might run wild about dentists going crazy with drills! However, the reality of a dental fillings appointment is much tamer.

The best way to confront anxiety about the dentist is to arm yourself with knowledge. A dental filling is a short, clinical procedure with only some discomfort. Educating yourself about the reality of the process is a great way to curb your anxieties and reign in your imagination.

So if you find yourself worrying about an upcoming filling, read on. We’ll put your mind at ease!

What Are Dental Fillings For?

Fillings for teeth are necessary after cavities or excessive damage to the teeth caused by grinding. You might also need a filling after breaking a tooth.

During the appointment, your dentist will remove unhealthy parts of the teeth and replace the area with a hard material. There are several different materials to replace the damaged tooth area and each of them has its pros and cons. Our team will be able to give you recommendations for your specific case, but the final decision is yours and depends on your preferences.

Amalgam Fillings

Dental amalgam is a combination of several metals, including silver, tin, copper, and mercury.

You might have heard rumors that it’s best to replace certain fillings due to the presence of mercury. These rumors are about amalgam fillings.

However, studies show that mercury levels in dental amalgam are negligible and have no negative health impact.

Scientists and dentists alike, report that dental amalgam remains a safe restorative option for both adults and children. Even the FDA maintains that amalgam fillings are safe and do not need to be replaced.

Dental amalgam is the most common fillings because they are incredibly strong and resistant to wear. However, due to their dark color, they’re often placed on the back teeth. The back teeth perform the majority of the chewing work and remain invisible, obscuring the strong, silvery appearance.

Composite Fillings

Composite fillings are formed from composite resin, made to match the color of your teeth. They’re moderately durable as well, although less durable than dental amalgam.

Their strength and color make them optimal for small and mid-size restorations in visible areas. They’re effectively invisible to the observer and resist most wear and tear. However, their color leaves them susceptible to staining like regular teeth.

Metal Fillings

Metal fillings are durable, although a bit more expensive than other types of material. These fillings can be made out of gold or silver. Some people prefer metallic colors but don’t want to get amalgam fillings, and so they choose metal instead.

Metal fillings are made to order and cemented into place. Gold fillings are the most expensive but can last 15 years before needing replacement.

Other Filling Types

There are a few other filling types, although they are less common.

Ceramic and porcelain fillings are made in a lab and then bonded to your teeth. They match the color of your teeth perfectly and resist staining, although they are more expensive and more fragile.

Another option is a glass ionomer made from a blend of acrylic and glass. These fillings release fluoride, a substance that protects the teeth. However, these are the least durable type and generally need replacement in under 5 years.

During the Appointment

Expect to spend about an hour at the dentist for your appointment. This will allow for any x-rays and other preparations. Our dental team will walk you through the procedure and answer any questions you have, before starting the work.

To begin with, the dentist will inject the area with local anesthesia to ease discomfort. The teeth, gums, and skin in the area will be numb for the duration of the appointment, as well as a few hours after.

Then, your dentist will drill through the enamel and remove the decay. They use a smaller drill to shape the area to prepare for the filling. A small base is placed over the tooth to protect the nerves in the center.

Then, the filling is placed on top and bonded to the tooth. After the filling is bonded, your dentist will finish and polish the tooth.

After the Appointment

Immediately after the appointment, expect your mouth to be numb for a few more hours. After the numbness fades, expect some sensitivity for 1-2 weeks.

During this time, you might notice sensitivity to pressure, air, sweets, and cold food. Try to use toothpaste and floss targeted for sensitive teeth. These products won’t irritate the area further.

It is important that you keep up with your cleaning routine, despite the discomfort. Not only will it help prevent infection, but it will protect against future tooth decay.

A cavity filling generally lasts for several years before needing a replacement. Some will wear out faster than others depending on your chewing, grinding, and clenching habits. If you notice any signs of wear on your filling, see your dentist right away.

Continuing to chew with a damaged filling can cause more issues like infection or other tooth damage. If there’s any damage to your fillings, we might replace them or top them off with dental crowns to reinforce the tooth.

Keep following up with our general dentistry team to make sure your filling is doing well, and keep your teeth clean to avoid further dental work! Periodic cleaning results in fewer cavities and therefore fewer dental restorations!

Schedule an Appointment Today

Hopefully, now that you know a little more about dental fillings, your anxiety will have eased and you’ll be ready to schedule your appointment.

Just know that every general dentist on our team is committed to making you feel comfortable and confident throughout the process. Our experience and attention to detail will have you leaving with great results.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us and we’ll help you in any way we can!