Online Dental Education Library
Our team of dental specialists and staff strive to improve the overall health of our patients by focusing on preventing, diagnosing and treating conditions associated with your teeth and gums. Please use our dental library to learn more about dental problems and treatments available. If you have questions or need to schedule an appointment, contact us.
Teeth Whitening - Brighter, whiter...
The subconscious impact of a white smile is radiant health, happiness, warmth and invitation. This phenomenon has been reinforced with the spread of American culture worldwide, where an especially white smile has even been coined a "Hollywood smile". Today brighter, lighter, whiter teeth have become a norm. Tooth whitening by bleaching is a successful, conservative, relatively inexpensive and safe alternative... Read Article
Smile Design with Porcelain Veneers
In part two of the series on Smile Design, Dear Doctor takes an in-depth look at Porcelain Veneers, a superior yet minimally invasive technique for smile enhancement. We'll explain not only when they're appropriate, but also when they're not... Read Article
Porcelain Veneers – Without A Drill
No drilling — reality or ridiculous? A no-drill technique requires a second look, as new materials and concepts have created new esthetic possibilities. Reactions and opinions among dentists have ranged from absolute disbelief to moderate acceptance. This article gives hope and reasons for patients to get excited about this conservative drill-free cosmetic technique... Read Article
Cosmetic Dentistry - A Time For Change
Join us as we review the myriad of possibilities available to you for cosmetic dental change. But the biggest part is not just how your smile looks, it's how you feel when you show it... Read Article
Dental Implants - Your Third Set of Teeth
A discovery fifty years ago paved the way for one of dentistry's most exciting, natural looking and successful tooth replacement systems. Learn how dental implants might just possibly change your life... Read Article
What is Tooth Decay?
Tooth Decay is an infection, and many people don't realize that it is preventable. This article is the first in a series about tooth decay, perhaps the number one reason children and adults lose teeth during their lifetime. Explore the causes of tooth decay, its prevention and the relationship to bacteria, sugars and acids... Read Article
Don't wait for cavities to occur and then have them fixed — stop them before they start. Modern dentistry is moving towards an approach to managing tooth decay that is evidence-based — on years of accumulated, systematic, and valid scientific research. This article discusses what you need to know to assess your risk and change the conditions that lead to decay... Read Article
The Beauty of Tooth Colored Fillings
The public's demand for aesthetic tooth colored (metal free) restorations (fillings) together with the dental profession's desire to preserve as much natural tooth structure as possible, has led to the development of special "adhesive" tooth colored restorations... Read Article
Wisdom Teeth – To Be Or Not To Be
Facts you need to know about these curiously named teeth. They are so-called because a moderate amount of wisdom is supposedly achieved at about the same time these teeth typically make their appearance. This article will review the problems associated with wisdom teeth and whether or not they should be removed... Read Article
Oral Hygiene - Dental Health for Life
The best tools for maintaining your oral health and minimizing dental problems are a quality toothbrush, toothpaste, a roll of dental floss, approved mouthwash and good diet. This article cuts through the confusion with a winning game plan for oral health... Read Article
Understanding Gum Disease
Have your gums ever bled when you brushed or flossed? This most commonly overlooked simple sign may be the start of silent (periodontal) disease leading to tooth loss. Learn what you can do to prevent this problem and keep your teeth for life... Read Article
The Impact of a Smile Makeover
Americans are catching on to the emotional and social importance of a healthy, beautiful smile, and they're seeking out ways to improve their smiles. Learn why and what a change could mean for you...Read Article
The orthodontic treatment using clear aligners consists of a series of aligners that you change about every two weeks over a course of treatment lasting six to eighteen months depending on how much movement is needed... Read Article
This article may just save your life. Learn how to notice any unusual lesions (sores or ulcers) anywhere in your mouth that do not heal within two-three weeks. Early detection is key... Read Article
Implant overdentures represent a major change for the dental profession and the public. The lower jaw two-implant overdenture may be considered a more appropriate starting point over regular dentures... Read Article
TMD – The Great Impostor
This “chameleon” of dental disorders manifests in a variety of ways, including joint pain, sinusitus, ear pain, tooth and headaches. The causes of TMD, its signs and symptoms and what can be done to treat this common disorder... Read Article
Lasers Shine a Light on Dentistry
Lasers have revolutionized medicine and now they're beginning to blaze a new trail in dentistry. Today, at the dawn of the 21st century there are a variety of dental uses for lasers, from diagnosing cavities and the removal of gum and tooth structure to the treatment of disease... Read Article
Oral Sedation Dentistry
Step out from under the shadow of fear and into the calm of sedation dentistry. There are safe and time-tested options available to ensure that you have a positive and painless dental experience. Your apprehension and hypersensitivity to pain melt away, yet you remain awake and in control... Read Article
Sleep Disorders and Dentistry
If my partner snores loudly, should I be concerned and what can be done to alleviate the problem? Why does my sleeping partner have lapses in breathing while sleeping and is it dangerous? Why do I wake up exhausted even though I get up to 10 hours sleep at night? The answers to these and more questions and how dentistry can help all revealed within... Read Article
About Dear Doctor Dentistry Magazine
Dear Doctor - Dentistry & Oral Health is a dental magazine written for the education of the general public. Dear Doctor provides information that is accurate, authoritative, and trustworthy on all aspects of dentistry and oral health including teeth whitening, porcelain veneers, dental implants, cosmetic dentistry, smile makeovers and more.
Copyright © 2012 Dear Doctor, Inc. All rights reserved. Copying or reproducing any text or graphics is strictly prohibited.
If you have never had a cavity, congratulations! If you have had one, you are not alone. About 78% of us have had at least one cavity by the time we reach age 17, according to a 2000 report by the U.S. Surgeon General. Fortunately there's a time-tested treatment for cavities: the dental filling.
Fillings do just what the name implies — seal a small hole in your tooth, i.e., a cavity, caused by decay. This prevents the decay (a bacteria-induced infection) from spreading further into your tooth and, if untreated, continue on to the sensitive inner pulp (nerve) tissue located in the root canal. Should that happen, you would need root canal treatment.
There are a variety of materials used to fill teeth these days, but the process of filling a tooth is similar regardless. The first step is a clinical exam of the tooth with x-rays, to determine the extent of the decay. Then the decayed area of the tooth is removed, usually with a handheld instrument such as a dental drill. Of course, your tooth will be anesthetized first, so you won't feel any discomfort. If you normally feel nervous about receiving numbing injections, it's possible that taking an anti-anxiety medication or using nitrous oxide can help you feel more relaxed. After removing the decay, the remaining tooth structure is roughened or “etched” with a mildly acidic solution; then translucent cement is applied to bond the tooth and the filling material together.
Types of Fillings
There are two broad categories of dental fillings: metal fillings and tooth-colored fillings. Each may offer particular advantages and disadvantages in certain situations.
Amalgam — The classic “silver” filling in use for more than a century, dental amalgam is actually an alloy made up of mercury, silver, tin, and copper. The mercury combines with the other metals in the amalgam to make it stable and safe. These fillings are strong and inexpensive, but also quite noticeable. They also require relatively more tooth preparation (drilling) than other types.
Cast Gold — Among the most expensive restorative dental materials, cast gold combines gold with other metals for a very strong, long-lasting filling. It is also highly noticeable, which can be considered a plus or minus.
Composite — A popular choice for those who don't want their fillings to show, composite is a mixture of plastic and glass, which actually bonds to the rest of the tooth. Composites are more expensive than amalgam fillings, and the newer materials can hold up almost as long. Less drilling of the tooth is necessary when placing composite as compared to amalgam.
Porcelain — These high-tech dental ceramics are strong, lifelike, and don't stain as composites can. They are sometimes more expensive than composites because they may require the use of a dental laboratory or specialized computer-generated technology. While considered the most aesthetic filling, they can also, because of their relatively high glass content, be brittle.
Glass Ionomer — Made of acrylic and glass powders, these inexpensive, translucent fillings have the advantages of blending in pretty well with natural tooth color and releasing small amounts of fluoride to help prevent decay. They generally don't last as long as other restorative materials.
What to Expect After Getting a Filling
The numbness caused by your local anesthesia should wear off within a couple of hours. Until then, it's best to avoid drinking hot or cold liquids, and eating on the side of your mouth with the new filling. Some sensitivity to hot and cold is normal in the first couple of weeks after getting a tooth filled. If it persists beyond that, or you have any actual pain when biting, it could signal that an adjustment to your filling needs to be made. Continue to brush and floss as normal every day, and visit the dental office at least twice per year for your regular checkups and cleanings. And remember, tooth decay is a very preventable disease; with good oral hygiene and professional care, you can make your most recent cavity your last!
The Natural Beauty of Tooth-Colored Fillings The public's demand for aesthetic tooth-colored (metal free) restorations (fillings) together with the dental profession's desire to preserve as much natural tooth structure as possible, has led to the development of special “adhesive” tooth-colored restorations... Read Article
Tooth Decay — A Preventable Disease Tooth decay is the number one reason children and adults lose teeth during their lifetime. Yet many people don't realize that it is a preventable infection. This article explores the causes of tooth decay, its prevention, and the relationship to bacteria, sugars, and acids... Read Article
Tooth Decay – How To Assess Your Risk Don't wait for cavities to occur and then have them fixed — stop them before they start. Modern dentistry is moving towards an approach to managing tooth decay that is evidence-based — on years of accumulated, systematic, and valid scientific research. This article discusses what you need to know to assess your risk and change the conditions that lead to decay... Read Article