Sometimes, however careful you are with your oral hygiene routine, it may be that you still require a filling as a result of tooth decay or trauma.
The foods and drinks that we consume contain sugary substances. When they come into contact with acid, produced by bacteria in the mouth, plaque forms. It needs to be removed as thoroughly as possible as it will react with the tooth enamel and the softer dentine and starts to break them down compromising the tooth.
The optimal way to prevent tooth decay is to follow a strict regime of brushing twice a day and flossing at least once a day. Choose a good quality fluoride tooth paste and if you are at risk, or indeed have tooth decay, it is recommended that you use a fluoride mouth wash as well and take care with your diet.
Once you develop tooth decay a decision will need to be taken by your dentist as to the best form of treatment to proceed with. If the decay is only moderate, sometimes known as dentine decay, a regular filling will be required. If the decay has developed to a more serious level, that is the decay has reached internally as far as the nerve, then root canal treatment will be required.
There several types of filling: white composite, porcelain, composite inlay or onlay and silver/gold
Typically these will last between 3-5 years and are the most popular type. One reason for this is that aesthetically they blend in with the patients natural teeth and bond excellently to the existing tooth tissue. Another advantage is that they can be fitted at one single appointment. However they take longer to fit than silver ones and do cost more initially.
Patients should be aware, however, that white fillings may in the course of time debond, chip, fracture or lose their quality of colour. There may be some sensitivity but this usually settles down after a few days.
Extra care should be taken when cleaning with daily flossing becoming part of your routine. Extra care needs to be taken as the edges of the filling may trap bacteria leading to further decay or infection.
These typically last 5-10 years. Whilst still having the advantage of being white they are ideal for larger areas which need filling. They require two dental appointments as they are produced in a specialist lab to fit the individual tooth.
If the area to be filled is exceptionally large it may be advisable to have a crown instead of a filling as this can reduce the risk of fracture.
These are stronger than white composite ones and thus last for a long time. Silver amalgam fillings do contain Mercury which some patients may feel is not for them. However they are still quite widely used. As with white fillings extra care should be taken during cleaning. Silver fillings do, however, have the advantage of being easier to fit and are also somewhat cheaper.