Tooth Decay & Fillings
Fillings, Why Do I Need Them?
Tooth decay is the destruction of your tooth enamel, the hard, outer layer of your teeth. It can be a problem for children, teens and adults. Plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, constantly forms on your teeth. When you eat or drink foods containing sugars, the bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack tooth enamel. The stickiness of the plaque keeps these acids in contact with your teeth and over time the enamel can break down. This is when cavities can form.
Cavities are more common among children, but changes that occur with aging make cavities an adult problem, too. Recession of the gums away from the teeth, combined with an increased incidence of gum disease, can expose tooth roots to plaque. Tooth roots are covered with cementum, a softer tissue than enamel. They are susceptible to decay and are more sensitive to touch and to hot and cold. It’s common for people over age 50 to have tooth-root decay.
Decay around the edges, or a margin, of fillings is also common for older adults. Because many older adults lacked benefits of fluoride and modern preventive dental care when they were growing up, they often have a number of dental fillings. Over the years, these fillings may weaken and tend to fracture and leak around the edges. Bacteria accumulate in these tiny crevices causing acid to build up which leads to decay.
You Can Help Prevent Tooth Decay
By Following These Tips:
Dental Filling Options
When it comes to having a cavity filled, it’s important to know that you have the right to decide, after consultation with your dentist, what treatments and materials are used for your dental care. Your dentist considers materials to use on an individualized basis, taking into account the size and location of your cavity. Cosmetic considerations, how long the filling could last, insurance coverage and out of pocket costs are some other factors you might want to consider. The ADA encourages you to talk with your dentist so that together you may choose the material that’s right for you.
Composite resins, or tooth-colored fillings, are a mixture of glass or quartz filler that provide good durability and resistance to fracture in small- to mid-size fillings that need to withstand moderate pressure from chewing. They can be used on either front or back teeth.
Dental amalgam, sometimes described as "silver-colored" fillings, is made from a combination of metals that include silver, tin, and copper. Dental amalgam has been used for generations by dentists. Amalgam is very durable and more affordable than tooth-colored or gold fillings; however tooth-colored materials are more natural looking.
Gold fillings, also called inlays or onlays, are composed of an alloy of gold, copper and other metals. Gold has been used in dentistry for more than 1,000 years due to its durability; however, gold is more costly than amalgam and not natural looking like tooth-colored fillings.
Why Does My Filling Need To Be Replaced?
Dental fillings (restorations) may last many years before they need replacing. However, constant pressure from chewing, grinding and clenching may cause a filling to wear away, chip, crack or even fall out.
Fillings that are worn around the edges or have pulled away from tooth enamel are invitations to decay-causing bacteria. The bacteria, which are present in saliva, combine with sugar or starch from food products to produce acids. The bacteria enter the tiny spaces between the filling and the tooth. Once there, they cannot usually be removed with a toothbrush. Decay may start to develop along the margins of the filling.
Improper hygiene, improper diet, gum recession or decreased saliva flow might cause recurring decay. If the recurrent decay is not removed early, it eventually progresses into the soft dentin and then the dental pulp, the tooth's living core. If the damaged or diseased pulp is not removed, the tooth and the surrounding tissues can become infected.
Regulary dental examinations are important because fillings that are broken or no longer intact generally can be detected in the early stages. During your checkup, your dentist can determine whether existing fillings are intact, or if any have cracked or worn away. Worn fillings should be replaced promptly before decay begins. In some cases, extensive tooth decay around an existing filling may leave little tooth structure once the decay is removed. Your dentist may need to restore the tooth with a crown instead of a filling.