What is a Dental Filling?

South Austin Dentist Tooth filling Circle C Dentist Fillings

Who we are

Blue Sky Family Dentistry is a local family dentist office that is proud to provide gentle dental care and modern technology to make sure your family’s smiles are beautiful and healthy for life. We see patients of all ages, from parents and grandparents to their youngest child. Whatever you need, be it routine teeth cleaning, dental implants, veneers or Invisalign, Dr. Corpron is dedicated to bringing you the highest quality of care.  At Blue Sky Family Dentistry, located in the heart of Circle C in South Austin, we want to exceed your expectations by bringing you comfort and peace of mind. Dr. Corpron takes a moment here to talk about dental fillings.

What is a dental filling?

A tooth filling is a restoration used to fix a chipped tooth or decayed tooth. If a small part of a tooth chips, or if the cavity in a tooth is small, then a tooth filling is often the best way to repair the tooth. Dental fillings are made out of very special plastic materials that are designed to be able to mimic the shape, color, and strength of your tooth. However, since they are only plastic they do have limitations. The bigger the dental cavity the more likely a crown or an onlay might be in order instead of a tooth filling.

How is a tooth filling done?

A dental filling procedure is a way of repairing small chips or small dental cavities. The first part of any cavity filling procedure is to get you comfortable. Dr. Corpron believes that gentle dental care is critical to helping you get the best dental care and that means taking the right amount of time to get you numb. If you are extremely anxious there is also the option of using nitrous, or laughing gas, to help ease you into calmer state of mind. After you are comfortable the next step is to carefully remove the tooth decay. Once all the decay is removed the tooth is dried and conditioned and then carefully built back up with a natural looking tooth filling material. The restoration is then gently sculpted and polished to reproduce the natural shape and beauty of your tooth. The type of material used depends on the size of the tooth filling and what part of the tooth is affected. If a cusp has been destroyed by the cavity or if the remaining enamel walls are only a millimeter or so thick, then the tooth is at greater risk of fracture and a ceramic onlay, which returns the tooth to its natural strength, is better.

How long does a tooth filling take?

This depends on the size of the filling. If it’s just a small, single surface filling in a pit or groove on your tooth, then the visit might only take 15 or 30 minutes. But what if half the tooth is missing? Well, if you decide to go with the filling instead of the crown, then the appointment might take an entire hour just to restore that one tooth. If you decided to do the crown, then it often means two separate visits. The first visit might take an hour and a half to prepare the tooth, take impressions, and to make the temporary crown. You would then need a separate 30 minute visit to cement the crown .

Will a tooth filling hurt?

No. A tooth filling procedure should not hurt. Any dental procedure, for that matter, should not hurt. This includes root canals, extractions, dental implants, deep cleanings, and more. If you had a tooth filling done and it hurt, then you either were not numb enough or the dentist got to work too quickly. That said, a tooth may hurt after a filling. This may be because of the gums, or maybe because the cavity was close to the nerve, or the the area around the tooth becomes inflamed. Usually this discomfort after the tooth filling is short lived and any discomfort or sensitivity goes away.

What is the average cost of a tooth filling?

There’s no good answer for this since there are so many variables involved. How many surfaces was the filling? What material is being used? Is there a dental lab involved? Do you have dental insurance? Is it a PPO or is it a DMO? Is the dentist in-network or out-of-network? So you can see that there’s no simple answer to this question.

The best way to find out how much a tooth filling will cost is to go to the Austin dentist you trust and ask them. If your family dentist told you that you needed a filling then they should also have given you a treatment plan with the cost. If they didn’t, ask for one. That’s a very basic courtesy. If you have dental insurance, as them for the in-network cost of the filling vs the office fee cost. In-network fees will almost always be lower. If you’re still not sure, get a second opinion. Getting multiple opinions is a good way to meet new dentists as well as a good way to compare prices. It might be time consuming but you’ll probably end up meeting an Austin dentist you like, and you’ll start to get a feel for how much fillings really cost in your area.

When a tooth filling falls out, what do I do?

The best thing to do is go see your family dentist to get the tooth evaluated and to get it fixed right away. Don’t wait until you get a toothache and definitely don’t wait until the tooth breaks even further. Sometimes a tooth filling falls out just because it debonded or it was leaking and replacing it is quick and easy. Other times it means a new dental cavity has formed and needs to be fixed. In either case, waiting only makes the problem worse. If you are traveling and you need an emergency fix, most pharmacies sell temporary filling materials. These can be placed where the filling used to be and will keep food out of the area. But if you’re in town, call your Austin dentist right away and get the filling replaced so you can avoid costly problems like root canals and crowns.

Are tooth fillings permanent?

Most dentists, including Dr. Corpron, your South Austin Dentist, would argue that nothing is permanent. Have you ever owned a car that never had a problem? How about a house that never needed repairs? The same goes for dental fillings. While the tooth colored filling materials are very good these days, how long a filling lasts depends on the condition of the tooth and that tooth’s environment. Do you keep your teeth really clean? Are your teeth well positioned? Do you eat well? All of these things influence how long a filling lasts. In short, keep up with your preventative care and maintain excellent home-care and the filling will last a really long time.

What tooth filling material is best?

Which tooth filling is best depends on the size of the cavity and which part of the tooth is being replaced. If the dental cavity is in the middle of the tooth and surrounded by strong, healthy tooth structure, then a tooth colored filling will work very well. But bigger cracks or the loss of a functional cusp (a cusp you bite down on) might need stronger materials like ceramic or zirconia. Imagine if half of a tooth is undermined by tooth decay. Would you want that replaced with plastic or something that has the same strength as your tooth? Ceramic is often the best choice for larger restorations since it has properties most similar to your enamel.

Can you get rid of a cavity without doing a tooth filling?

Not really. If decay reaches the dentin within a tooth then it will only continue to get bigger, and once a tooth cavity gets started that tooth will forever be affected by how the bacteria broke down that tooth. That said, if a dental cavity is very small and only in the superficial enamel of the tooth, then it is possible for the cavity to stop growing. This happens if you are really good about brushing with fluoride toothpaste and flossing every day. But more than that, it’s also important to limit how frequently you eat carbohydrates. Carbs are the fuel that bacteria use to cause tooth decay by demineralizing your teeth, so the more often you eat carbohydrates the more the bacteria can cause a dental cavity. Any Austin dentist can tell you how, every day, they see how different diets can increase or decrease your risk for dental decay. So keep the carbohydrates low between meals and brush with fluoride toothpaste to remineralize what the bacteria demineralize.

What does a cavity filling look like?

A tooth filling should look like your tooth! There are very few indications any more for silver fillings or amalgam fillings. These days the tooth colored filling materials are excellent, and they reproduce the strength and natural beauty of your teeth. In Dr. Corpron’s hands, your Austin dentist at Blue Sky Family Dentistry, most tooth fillings will be virtually undetectable. They should always feel natural and look natural. Anything less is unacceptable.

Can a tooth filling be done during pregnancy?

If you know you are pregnant, do not neglect your dental care. Taking good care of your teeth can lower the inflammation in your body and reduce your risk for unpleasant toothaches at really inconvenient times. That said, the first thing to do is to get a letter from your obstetrician-gynecologist. Make sure you get the thumbs up from them before scheduling any dental care. They’ll often give you a letter saying what you can and cannot do during the pregnancy. With that letter in hand you can go to your Austin dentist and get most routine dental care done. Procedures such as tooth fillings, crowns, root canals, extractions, cleanings, and more are all safe during pregnancy as long as basic precautions are met.