Dental fillings are required to restore voids left by the removal of tooth decay. Tooth decay, “dental caries” or formation of “a cavity” are synonymous terms for a process by which oral bacteria digest sugar residues in the mouth, producing by-product acids that soften your enamel and dentin. If detected early, treatment involves removal of a small portion of softened tooth structure and restoration or filling of a tiny hole or void. In advanced cases, large cavities or holes may be present and will require large or deep fillings. In cases of deep decay approximating the nerve canal space, root canal therapy may be required in conjunction with placement of a dental filling.
How do I detect dental decay? How do I know if I have a cavity?
Unfortunately, most cases of dental decay do not produce discernible pain, sensitivity or other symptoms. In fact, most cases of deep decay go unnoticed by patients because of a lack of symptoms. Tooth decay can be orange, brown, black or purple in appearance. Importantly, the presence of a distinguishable colour change must be accompanied by a detectable softening of the tooth structure or change in consistency. Sometimes, where symptoms are present, dental decay may manifest as an increase in sensitivity to sweet or cold stimuli. If you notice a colour change on a surface of your tooth or experience a localized increase in tooth sensitivity, it is best to have it assessed by us.
Even if no decay is present, there is the value to having that knowledge and the piece-of-mind in knowing that your teeth are healthy. Dr. Hornby will check your teeth at recall or “check-up” appointments and at cleanings. If decay is present, we will often take a photograph to review with you. From there, you can book an appointment during a time convenient to you so that we can treat and restore your tooth/teeth.
What is involved in having a dental filling placed?
At your dental filling appointment, Dr. Hornby will review the procedure thoroughly with you. Any relevant radiographs and intraoral photographs that demonstrate dental decay will be reviewed with you as well. Our aim is to be as transparent with you as we can be. The majority of patients opt for and receive local anesthetic to “numb” the affected teeth. A small percentage of patients prefer to avoid the use of local anesthetic as a personal preference. Topical anesthetic or “numbing gel” is held in contact with the gums for 30-60 seconds. Local anesthetic will then be administered at a site directly adjacent to the affected tooth. Full anesthesia is typically achieved following a 5-10 minute wait. Dental decay will be removed using a special abrasive bur that is powered by a dental handpiece. Once all decayed tooth structure is removed, a series of sterilizing and priming solutions will be applied to your tooth to facilitate bonding of a tooth-coloured filling material within the excavated site. The tooth-coloured filling material will be properly adapted and contoured to seal the void left by cavity preparation and provide you with what looks and feels like real tooth structure! The dental filling will be light-cured and hardened using a blue light. The final steps involve shaping and fine polishing of your dental filling. Dr. Hornby will ensure that your bite is comfortable and then take a post-operative photograph to show you your smooth and glossy new dental filling.
Do Dental Fillings Hurt?
No. Placement of dental fillings should not hurt. Treatment of dental decay or “cavities” is typically completed with use of a local anesthetic to provide numbness or “freezing”. Post-operatively (see below), patients may experience short-lived temperature or biting sensitivity for 1-2 weeks following placement of dental fillings. The sensitivity gradually subsides over this post-operative period and is indicative of healing in your tooth’s nerve. If you are experiencing post-operative sensitivity beyond 1-2 weeks, or if you are experiencing outright pain, call your Family Dentist to notify them.
Dental Filling After Care
Post-operatively, you will be advised to avoid eating and drinking for 1-2 hours depending on the volume and concentration of dental anesthetic used. This ensures that you do not inadvertently bite or chew your lip or cheek and sustain painful soft tissue trauma. You may also experience intermittent pressure- or cold-induced sensitivity for a period of 1-2 weeks following placement of your dental filling(s). The amount of time taken for this sensitivity to subside will typically depend upon the depth of the repaired decay or its proximity to the dental pulp or “nerve”. If you are not sure whether or not the symptoms you are experiencing are normal, please call our office at (519) 576-8160.