Fillings are an artificial material used to repair decayed or broken teeth. Decay is a progressive disease that will advance into the tooth until pain, abscess, or tooth fracture result. If the decay is replaced with a filling, the disease process is stopped. The earlier a cavity is filled, the smaller the filling will be, and the better this is for the health of the tooth. Once the tooth is numb, having a filling done is a painless process.
We use tooth-colored composite fillings. Composite filling material is inert resin with color added to match the shade of the teeth. Initially it is soft like dough so it can be shaped to fit the tooth. When a curing light shines on the composite it is activated to harden so it is durable enough for chewing. With good home care composite fillings last 10 years or more.
Once the tooth has been numbed, the decay is removed. A bonding agent (that is like a glue to help the filling adhere to the tooth) is applied with a small brush. The composite is placed in the tooth and light-cured. The final filling is polished smooth. It is very esthetic. Composite fillings can be used for front teeth and back teeth.
This filling stops the disease process of the decay and ensures many more years of use from this tooth.
Sealants are a coating that fills grooves to prevent cavities.
This microscopic view shows a single toothbrush bristle on the upper left. It is unable to fit into the groove in the tooth on the lower right. Bacteria are small enough to hide down in that groove where the toothbrush can’t clean them out. This situation is a cavity waiting to happen.
Here is a larger view of the normal grooves in a back tooth. On the left is an untreated tooth with stained grooves. On the right is the same tooth after a sealant has been bonded into the grooves. The teeth do not need to be numbed and there is no drilling involved; having a sealant done is a painless procedure. With a sealant in place the bacteria can no longer hide in the grooves, the surface of the tooth is smoother, and it is easy to clean with a toothbrush.
Permanent teeth with grooves should have sealants as soon as they erupt into the mouth. Grooves can be found in molars, premolars, and sometimes the back of the incisors. These teeth erupt from ages 6-13. A tooth with grooves that does not get a sealant is seven times more likely to get a cavity.