Dental Fillings in Melbourne, FL
1 in 4 third-graders in Florida has untreated tooth decay, according to the most recent data from the Department of Health. Children with oral health issues are significantly more likely to miss school, leading to decreased academic performance compared to their healthy peers. But tooth decay doesn’t just impact children. In fact, it is the most prevalent chronic condition among both children and adults. As a result, dental fillings are one of the most common treatments performed in dental offices.
At Designing Smiles Dentistry, we offer different options for filling your cavity to alleviate pain and restore your oral health.
Why Fillings Are Needed
Fillings are necessary to treat dental cavities, also known as caries or tooth decay. When bacteria in the mouth produce acids that erode the protective enamel, they create small holes or cavities in the teeth. If left untreated, these cavities can grow larger and penetrate deeper into the tooth, potentially causing pain and further damage. Fillings serve a crucial role by halting the progression of decay.
If you have a cavity, Dr. Apel can restore your tooth’s structure and function by removing the decayed portion of the tooth and filling the resulting space with a filling material. By addressing cavities promptly with fillings, you can prevent the need for more extensive and costly dental procedures while preserving your oral health.
If you need a filling, you might notice the following signs of a cavity:
- Toothache or sensitivity
- Visible holes or pits
- Pain when chewing
- Tooth fractures
- Bad breath or an unpleasant taste in your mouth
- Swollen gums or pus near the gumline
- White, brown, or black stains on the tooth
While these are some of the most common cavity symptoms, some individuals don’t experience symptoms until the decay has progressed past the early stages. When this occurs, a filling or more extensive repair may be warranted. With regular dental visits, we can recognize the warning signs of decay and help you address these concerns before they become larger problems.
Risks of Untreated Cavities
When cavities are left untreated, the tooth can become more severely damaged. This means more complex and costly treatment. Our goal is to help you achieve optimal oral health without breaking the bank. That’s why we work diligently to detect early signs of decay, which can be reversed with proper oral hygiene. If a cavity has already formed, we can use fillings to stop the decay from advancing.
However, when decay progresses, the bacteria can enter deeper parts of the tooth, leading to a larger cavity that must be capped with a crown or even a painful abscess. To slow the spread of infection, we may need to perform root canal therapy or a tooth extraction. If we need to remove a tooth, we can replace it with a mini dental implant and artificial crown. Though this restorative treatment has high success rates and is an excellent solution to tooth loss, our priority is maintaining the health of your natural teeth whenever possible.
Types of Fillings
At Designing Smiles Dentistry, we use different types of fillings depending on the size of your cavity, the condition of your tooth, and your individual preferences.
Silver Amalgam Fillings
First used in the U.S. in the 1830s, silver (amalgam) fillings were the standard filling material for almost 200 years. They are known for their durability and affordability due to a combination of metals: silver, tin, zinc, copper, and mercury. While mercury in this context is deemed safe by the American Dental Association, the FDA has issued a warning about the risks associated with silver amalgam fillings for certain high-risk populations. These include young children, pregnant and nursing women, people allergic to filling components, and those with a neurological disease or impaired kidney function.
While silver fillings can last for 10 to 15 years and resist stains, they often require more of the natural tooth structure to be removed. They are also easy to spot in the mouth and are more likely to crack than other options due to the metal expanding and contracting with temperature changes.
Today, we have better options for filling cavities, namely white composite fillings that blend seamlessly with your smile.
White Composite Fillings
Tooth-colored composite fillings are the modern dental filling option, offering many benefits to those needing to fill a cavity.
Advantages of composite fillings include:
- Natural appearance: Because we match the shade of the composite resin to your teeth, the filling doesn’t stand out like metal fillings do. This is especially valuable for cavities in visible areas of the mouth, like teeth in your smile line.
- Preserve tooth structure: Composite fillings require less removal of healthy tooth structure during placement compared to traditional amalgam fillings. This means more of your natural tooth is preserved, contributing to its long-term health and strength.
- Strengthen the tooth: White fillings bond directly to the tooth in layers, strengthening the tooth and preventing fractures.
- Safe alternative: Unlike amalgam fillings, tooth-colored composite fillings are mercury-free, offering a safer choice for those concerned about potential mercury exposure. The composite material is biocompatible and suitable for individuals with sensitivities or allergies.
- Long-lasting: With proper care and regular dental check-ups, composite resin fillings are durable and long-lasting. Their ability to withstand the daily wear and tear of chewing and biting makes them a reliable option for restoring teeth.
- Resist temperature changes: Tooth-colored fillings resist temperature changes, expanding and contracting at a rate similar to natural teeth. As a result, they reduce the risk of cracks or fractures due to temperature fluctuations.
Silver and tooth-colored fillings are considered direct fillings, meaning they are placed in a single visit. At Designing Smiles Dentistry, we also provide indirect fillings like zirconia inlays. Like other fillings, inlays treat cavities.
We use inlays when you don’t have enough natural tooth structure for a traditional filling but don’t yet need a crown, which covers the entire visible surface of the tooth. Compared to a traditional filling, inlays are a better solution for larger cavities. Known for their incredible durability, zirconia inlays are especially useful for cavities in the back teeth, which must withstand strong chewing forces. With proper oral hygiene, zirconia inlays can last up to 30 years.
At your visit, we will determine the best filling option for your needs and preferences.
The Filling Procedure
For a direct filling, like a tooth-colored composite filling, we will apply a local anesthetic to numb the affected tooth and surrounding areas. Next, Dr. Apel will use a drill to remove the decayed portion of the tooth and clean the cavity, clearing away any remaining debris or bacteria. For a composite filling, Dr. Apel will match the resin color to the shade of your teeth before applying it in layers, shaping the material to the tooth’s natural contours. Each layer is hardened with a curing light. Finally, Dr. Apel will remove excess material and polish the tooth. From beginning to end, a direct filling takes about an hour to complete.
Indirect fillings, like zirconia inlays, take two visits to complete because the filling is customized in a lab to the exact specifications of your tooth. At your first appointment, Dr. Apel will prepare your tooth by removing the decay. He will take impressions and place a temporary filling to protect your tooth. A dental lab then fabricates the inlay using the impressions, which can take a few weeks.
At your second visit, Dr. Apel will remove your temporary filling, check the fit of your inlay, and then cement it into place.
Safeguard Your Smile with Dental Fillings
While early decay can be reversed, if you or a family member has a cavity, we can help. With tooth-colored composite fillings, we offer an aesthetically pleasing solution for halting the progression of decay. If you have a larger cavity, the durability of zirconia inlays provides long-lasting relief from pain and sensitivity.
For over 30 years, Dr. Apel has provided comprehensive care for residents of Melbourne, FL. If you have symptoms of decay, contact us today to learn more about filling options at Designing Smiles Dentistry.