Fillings

Cavity.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.

Metal Fillings

Metal Filling.

Metal Fillings.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.

Tooth-Colored Fillings

Tooth-Colored Filling.

Tooth-Colored Fillings.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.

Watch Tooth-Colored Fillings Video

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!

Related Articles

Tooth-Colored Fillings - Dear Doctor Magazine

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 - Dear Doctor Magazine

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 - Dear Doctor Magazine

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

Our Location

150 4th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217 (between Butler St. & Douglas St.)

Hours of Operation

Our Regular Schedule

Park Slope Kids Dental Care

Monday:

2:00 pm-7:00 pm

alternating

Tuesday:

2:00 pm-7:00 pm

Wednesday:

2:00 pm-7:00 pm

Thursday:

9:00 am-5:00 pm

Friday:

9:00 am-5:00 pm

Saturday:

9:00 am-2:00 pm

alternating

Sunday:

Closed

  • "My child had the best check-up ever… she even had to have a filling. My daughter didn’t feel any pain and said she really liked Dr Francis!! The office is also great and inviting. Overall a great experience."
    Felicia G.
  • "If you are looking for the perfect place to take your little one for his/her super-important first dental visit, this is the PERFECT FIT! I noticed the new practice that opened up in the neighborhood near where I work, and I’m so glad I gave it a try! Dr. Francis was amazing she made my little guy (he’s 3) feel completely at ease for his first appointment at the dentist. He don’t even cry once! If you knew my kid, you would know that is a major accomplishment! The office is clean and modern with state of the art equipment; totally unexpected for a kids dental office. I have decided to officially make Dr. Francis my munchkin’s dentist! I would definitely recommend the office to other parents and I have already passed the info along to friends and coworkers."
    Melanie M
  • "I have 3-year old twins and we visited Park Slope Kids Dental Care on 3/1 and it was a great experience. Dr. Francis is fantastic and her staff are wonderful. I had to reschedule my appointment at the last minute and they were super accommodating. The office is beautiful and kid-friendly–really. I’ve been to other offices where they claim to be kid-friendly and all I can see that makes it “friendly” are a few books and pint-size chairs. Nicole–mom to C & P (the best gifts ever)"
    Nicole M.
  • "Dr. T Francis at Park Slope Kids Dental Care is great. At our appt yesterday, I hadn’t wanted to let all three to the exam room at once because they would incite a riot, but the doctor said that she welcomed it. She also let my eldest hold instruments during her sisters’ exam. Lovely doctor; great practice."
    Nicole M
  • "I like that this a friendly kids environment dentist office. They make the kids very comfortable and happy smiling teeth. I recommend to every parent who looking for a kid zone dentist office that won’t have your kids screaming their head off."
    Tanya R.
  • "I cannot rave enough about this place! Dr. Francis was amazing and the staff was friendly and professional. The office is clean and modern, with lots of cool activities for kids. I like it that they will accomodate you if you don’t want your kid watching tv! A huge plus in my book! My son is 4 and the exam went off without a hitch. Before we knew it, his teeth were clean, his issues were addressed, and we were out the door with a balloon and a goodie bag! I was dreading this day, but we made it out without my son having a metldown! Dr. Francis is a godsend. This will be his dentist through college!!!!"
    Martien J