Dental Fillings

Fixing damage caused by tooth decay 

Woman concerned getting fillings due to cavities

Concerned about getting dental fillings due to cavities?

Healthy teeth are not only crucial for having a beautiful and attractive smile but also for eating and speaking without difficulty. While regular oral healthcare measures like brushing and flossing are enough to keep your teeth and gums healthy, ignoring them can cause teeth cavities that need to be fixed with dental fillings by your San Jose dentist.


Why are Dental Fillings Needed?

Our teeth consist of three layers – the outermost is the enamel, and the underlying two layers are the dentine and the pulp, respectively. The dental enamel comprises mineralized tissue that makes it very strong and durable. The enamel is also highly resistant against the attack of harmful bacteria that cause teeth cavities and gum inflammation.

Underlying dentin and pulp are softer than the enamel. The deepest layer of the tooth, the pulp, is rich in blood vessels and nerves. When regular oral hygiene care is ignored, a thin layer of food and bacterial debris – the plaque – forms on the teeth. With time, the plaque hardens to become calculus.

Both the plaque and calculus offer an ideal environment for the growth and replication of harmful, disease-causing bacteria. These bacteria use the sugars from the plaque and calculus as their food and release toxins that make the oral environment acidic. When this happens, the minerals inside the enamel come out in the oral cavity, leaving the enamel weak and brittle. With time, the enamel layer is lost, and the underlying softer dentin and pulp layers are exposed. This issue is when your Dr. Diaz will restore the damaged tooth structure with a dental filling.

When are dental fillings needed??

Dental fillings may be required for various reasons. The most common reason is when a tooth forms cavities as a result of poor oral hygiene maintenance. Your San Jose Dentist may also recommend dental fillings if a fractured or chipped tooth affects facial esthetics and dental function. Your dentist may also recommend tooth-colored dental fillings for congenitally misshapen or crooked teeth. Finally, a dental filling is also needed in some cases for masking permanent teeth stains. Your San Jose dentist will recommend the best type of dental fillings for restoring your teeth after a thorough and detailed clinical examination.

What are different types of fillings?

Based on function, there are two types of fillings: temporary and permanent fillings. As the name suggests, temporary fillings are used for the short-term restoration of the teeth. Dentists place temporary fillings on the teeth when they have to perform multiple tooth procedures, such as a root canal treatment. Once the treatment has been completed, your Dr. Diaz will replace it with a definitive, permanent filling.

The most commonly used dental fillings are the tooth-colored, composite fillings. As their name suggests, these fillings consist of different phases, an organic phase that consists of a polymer and an inorganic phase that comprises a filler. The polymer imparts crucial esthetic properties to the restoration. The fillers improve its hardness and prevent excessive expansion or contraction of a filling – leading to its failure – when you take hot or cold drinks.

The composite fillings offer various benefits. First, they can bond directly to the tooth structure with an adhesive. Your dentist does not need to remove healthy tooth structures to make room for them – only the removal of the damaged tooth structure is required. Second, the color and shade of the composite fillings can be precisely matched with that of your teeth. Consequently, they offer excellent, lifelike esthetics to the restored teeth – that are often indistinguishable from your natural teeth. Finally, composite fillings can be repaired if they get fractured, chipped, or stained.

Another type of fillings is the glass ionomers. These are semi-permanent dental fillings that bond directly with the tooth structure. These fillings have a unique beneficial aspect – they release fluoride ions into the oral cavity that promotes remineralization and hardening of the outer enamel – thereby preventing teeth cavities.

Which filling is suitable for me?

According to the American Dental Association, your San Jose dentist will decide the best type of filing based on the extent of tooth damage. Small to medium teeth cavities are typically restored directly with tooth-colored fillings. However, if there is extensive tooth damage, your dentist may recommend placing a crown over the tooth after placing the fillings. A crown provides extra support to a restored tooth and prevents it from spontaneous fracture or chipping.

Another factor that your dentist will consider before placing the filling is the esthetic requirements. Naturally, if the damage tooth lies in the front, it will be more visible and hence, your dentist will be more careful to ensure that the shade of the filling matches exactly with the neighboring teeth. On the other hand, if a back tooth is damaged, your dentist will think more about the strength of the restored tooth as the back teeth have to face higher chewing forces than the front ones. Besides, the back teeth are also less visible than the ones that are present in the front.

How Long Do Fillings Last?

Dental fillings placed by an experienced dentist tend to last for a long time with regular brushing and flossing. Today, esthetically pleasant filling materials with excellent strength and durability are available that can last anywhere between 5-10 years if looked after properly.