Dental cavities are among the most prevalent dental health issues that can affect patients of all ages. If detected early, cavities can be treated using dental fillings. If left untreated, they can spread to the inner tooth pulp, resulting in dental loss and an increased risk of bone recession and gum disease.

At Beach Dental Care Anaheim, we provide state-of-the-art dental solutions for restoring dental cavities. We offer dental sedation options and laser dentistry to reduce anxiety and discomfort. We conduct all dental decay treatments in our office in Anaheim. Call us for a consultation, as we look forward to restoring your smile.

What Are Dental Fillings?

Dental fillings are a kind of artificial dental restoration for filling up gaps or holes in the teeth damaged by minor decay. One prevalent use of dental fillings is to fill a tooth cavity. Fillings can also be used for repairing broken, fractured, or cracked teeth and worn-down teeth from misuse (for example, tooth grinding or nail-biting).

Treatment with dental fillings is an effective and safe way of repairing the damage, restoring the teeth's function and normal shape, and preventing further decay. The dental filling placement procedure entails the dentist first extracting the decayed tooth material and bacteria. Once the dentist cleans and prepares the damaged tooth, they use a filling substance to fill the cavity.

By sealing off gaps through which bacteria can enter the tooth, a dental filling also assists in preventing further tooth decay or damage.

Types of Dental Fillings

Several dental filling materials are available, although not all suit everyone. These materials include composite resin, amalgam, porcelain, and gold. What type of dental filling material is ideal for your decayed tooth or teeth depends on preexisting allergies, where the tooth is located in the mouth, the extent to which the tooth is damaged, your budget, and your preference. Your dental professional is the right person to suggest the appropriate filing material that suits your needs.

  • Composite Resin Fillings

These are made from composite resin combined with powdered glass material. They are otherwise called white fillings and are less conspicuous than amalgam dental fillings. The composite resin material used in making these dental fillings is semi-solid and can be modeled and shaped easily over the prepared cavity.

Once the dentist completes filling the cavity, they use a blue dental curing LED light to harden the composite resin material. The light is not harmful to the teeth. But you must put on safety glasses for eye protection.

These fillings often fill the top of the teeth and resemble the natural tooth material they are replacing. They are commonly used for repairs other than filling cavities. Additionally, they release small amounts of fluoride that might assist in reducing the risk of further tooth decay.

Another benefit is that sometimes less tooth material is extracted than with amalgam fillings. However, composite resin fillings are less durable than the others and may chip off the tooth based on the affected tooth's location.

  • Porcelain Fillings

These are tooth-colored dental fillings, like composite fillings. They both involve using LED light for hardening, but that is as far as the similarities go. Porcelain fillings, sometimes called ceramic or inlay reconstructions, are stronger, more durable (lasting 25 years), and have more aesthetic dental restorations than composite fillings.

If your tooth has lost a cusp (teeth corner) due to a bigger cavity, your dentist would recommend a porcelain filling since, in this case, the tooth has sustained structural damage. These fillings are more resistant to staining than composite resin fillings. Porcelain dental fillings are designed and then pre-modeled in a dental lab using impressions of the damaged tooth or a digital scan.

  • Amalgam Dental Fillings

These are among the most commonly used fillings. They are made from an alloy of mercury, tin, zinc, copper, and silver. When your dental professional alloys these metals, the result is a soft, pliable substance. The dental professional then uses this substance to fill the prepared tooth cavity. Within some time, the amalgam hardens and permanently bonds to the tooth. The traces of mercury are locked in the amalgam as the hardening process takes place, rendering it harmless and thus safe for the body.

Amalgam fillings are more conspicuous than composite resin fillings since they have a dark color. This makes the fillings more appropriate for the rear teeth instead of the more noticeable front teeth. Another reason why amalgam fillings are suitable for rear teeth is because they are more durable than composite resin fillings and do not need replacement as often. They are also less costly than composite resin fillings.

One disadvantage of amalgam fillings is that more tooth material may have to be extracted to create a large enough space to hold the filling. Another disadvantage is that this filling creates a grayish shade on the neighboring teeth and exposes the patient to a higher risk of tooth fractures and cracks because of the wide extent of contraction and expansion. Also, there is an allergic possibility in some patients.

  • Gold Fillings

These are made from an alloy of gold. They are deemed the most durable fillings, lasting twenty or more years. However, they are also the most costly dental fillings, for apparent reasons.

Whereas the dental treatment procedure with composite resin, amalgam, and porcelain takes one session, treatment with gold dental fillings requires two dental visits as the fillings must be prepared and modeled in a dental laboratory. Gold foil may also be used and placed directly to fill smaller cavities. Gold fillings present a pleasing appearance.

When to Know Whether You Must Undergo a Dental Filling

Only your dental professional can tell whether or not you have a dental cavity that requires filling. During a dental check-up, your dental professional will examine the surfaces of your teeth using a small mirror. They will then use special instruments to check for anything that appears to be abnormal. The dentist can also take X-ray images of a part of your mouth or the whole of it.

The kind of treatment the dental professional will recommend will be based on the level of damage the decay has caused.

Dental Filling Treatment Procedure

A filling can assist in smoothing the tooth surface and improving jaw function for chewing and biting. Most people suffering from tooth decay further suffer from tooth sensitivity because of enamel loss, which could also be significantly minimized by dental filling placement.

Dental Consultation and Planning

The initial step of the filling treatment is for the dentist to examine your teeth to determine the ideal step. Dental fillings are ideal for minor decay and fractures. Other forms of dental restoration, like implants or dental crowns, might be necessary in more serious cases.

Your dental professional can examine your teeth using a caries-detecting liquid and a dental probe to investigate the affected areas. They may also use X-ray images to establish more exact information concerning the severity and location of the fracture or decay.

As mentioned above, there are various types of dental fillings. The appropriate type for your condition will be based on specific elements, like the cavity location, medical history, budget, preference, and aesthetic needs.

The Procedure

First, your dental professional will administer a local anesthetic injection to numb the gums surrounding the damaged tooth, increasing your comfort throughout the treatment procedure.

Once the dentist has administered a local anesthetic, they will prepare the damaged or decayed tooth and the surrounding gums for restoration. They may use a dental laser or handpiece to extract the decayed or damaged section of the tooth and then clean, wash, and dry the area. They may use an acid gel to cleanse the area, removing any remaining debris or bacteria.

The dentist will then insert the dental filling substance in the gap left by the decayed or damaged tooth material, filling up the hole and restoring the tooth's original shape. The dentist will then ask you to bite hard to see whether the filling feels comfortable. Note that the amount of filling used is determined depending on the extent of tooth damage or decay.

Lastly, the dentist will polish the treated tooth to complete the filling procedure.

Dental Follow-Up

Once you have undergone the entire filling procedure, your dental professional needs to spare a few minutes to discuss how you can prevent decay or cavities from forming near or underneath the filling. The techniques will also come in handy in preventing the other teeth from decaying.

The dental professional will advise you to follow proper dental care practices, like brushing and flossing twice daily and using an interdental cleaner daily. Mouthwash will also be beneficial if you are at a higher risk of further tooth decay.

If you have a higher risk of dental caries, you can also benefit from sealant placed on top of the molars at the rear of the mouth to prevent plaque accumulation and decay in the area. Sometimes follow-up dental appointments are necessary to check how the tooth is progressing with the dental filling and for routine professional cleanings.

Complications and Risks of Dental Filling Treatment

The complications and risks of dental filling treatment are rare, but when they occur, they include the following:

  • For the first few days after undergoing the dental filling procedure, you may experience pain or tingling in the treated tooth while chewing, particularly if the food is cold or hot.
  • Sometimes, inserting the filling can damage the nerves in the tooth.
  • Patients who are allergic to the dental filling material may develop rashes and itching.
  • There is minimal risk of infection at the site of filling or anesthetic injection.

Temporary Fillings

You may need temporary fillings if the following is true:

  • If you require emergency dental treatment, for example, to treat a toothache,
  • To enable the nerves of your tooth to settle down if the pulp is irritated.
  • You have undergone the root canal procedure.
  • Two or more appointments are required for your dental filling procedure, for example, before the dentist places gold fillings or for indirect dental fillings that utilize composite materials.

As the name suggests, temporary dental fillings are not designed to last. They often wear out, fracture, or fall out within a month. Ensure you visit your dental professional to replace your temporary dental filling with a permanent one. If you do not, your tooth may develop an infection or have other complications. 

Indirect Dental Fillings

Indirect dental fillings resemble tooth-colored or composite fillings. The difference is that they are modeled in a lab and need two dental visits before placement. These dental fillings are an option when you do not have sufficient tooth structure to hold a filling in place but the tooth is not so seriously damaged that it requires a dental crown.

At the initial visit, the dentist removes an old dental filling or decay and takes an impression to note the damaged tooth’s shape and the shape of the adjacent teeth. The dentist then sends the impression to a lab that creates indirect fillings. They place a temporary dental filling to safeguard the tooth while the indirect fillings are being made.

During the second appointment, the dentist removes the temporary filling and checks the indirect restoration's fit. If the fit is correct, they will permanently cement the indirect fillings into place.

Indirect fillings come in two types—onlays and inlays. Inlays resemble dental fillings, although the entire filing lies within the bumps (cusps) on the tooth's chewing surface. Onlays are more extensive than inlays as they cover one or more cusps. Onlays are, at times, known as partial crowns.

Onlays and Inlays are highly durable, lasting much longer than conventional fillings—a maximum of thirty years. They can be made from gold, porcelain, or composite resin. Onlays and inlays weaken the tooth structure, although to a much lower degree than conventional fillings.

Another form of onlay and inlay—direct onlays and inlays—follow similar procedures and processes as indirect fillings, except that direct onlays and inlays are created at a dental office, and the dentist can insert them in a single appointment. The kind of onlay or inlay used is based on cosmetic concerns and how much healthy tooth structure is there.

When or Why You Would Need to Replace a Filling

There are three primary reasons why you would need to replace a filling. They are:

  • The usual wear and tear—constant pressure due to clenching, grinding, or chewing can make dental fillings chip, wear away, or crack. Even though you might be incapable of telling that your dental filling is wearing down, your dental professional can spot the problem during a routine checkup.
  • The decay or filling is large—if the current tooth decay is large or the dental filling is extensive, there might be insufficient tooth structure to hold a replacement dental filling. In this case, your dental professional may have to replace the dental filling with a dental crown.
  • Filling fails, and decay follows—if the sealant between the filling and tooth enamel breaks down, bacteria and food particles can accumulate beneath the filling, making you likely to develop further decay in the affected tooth. When left untreated, decay can advance to infect the dental pulp, leading to a tooth abscess.

The Cost of Dental Filling Treatment

The cost of dental filling treatment varies based on the tooth's condition and the degree to which it has sustained damage or decay. It also depends on how many teeth need filling and the type of dental filling you prefer. A single amalgam dental filling costs between $50 and $150, a single porcelain or cast-gold filling costs between $250 and $4,500, and a single composite resin filling costs between $90 and $250.

Most dental insurance companies cover fillings at an 80% rate. The amount is evaluated after the yearly deductible, which varies per plan, has been met. Without insurance, fillings’ costs range from $200 to $600 based on the cavity size and other factors mentioned above.

Your dentist will prepare your customized treatment plan once you schedule your first appointment. Once the dentist has checked your teeth, they will inform you of everything regarding your treatment so you can decide what kind of treatment you want.

Benefits of Fillings

Fillings have several advantages. They improve tooth function. A decayed tooth may make chewing challenging and painful. However, once you undergo a dental filling treatment, you will be capable of chewing without any discomfort or difficulty.

Dental fillings also prevent infection of the affected tooth before the dentist can perform other procedures like root canal therapy, which is performed in multiple dental appointments. The dentist can place a temporary dental filling to give the gums and tooth enough healing time while preventing infection.

Fillings like composite resin fillings release fluoride, which protects the tooth from further damage and decay. When the decay is underneath the gumline, the released fluoride supplements the enamel, reversing the early signs of dental decay.

Fillings can match the original teeth’s aesthetics, making it impossible to differentiate the fillings from the rest of the teeth, and they can strengthen cracked or broken teeth.

Lastly, tooth fillings are highly durable, depending on the type of material used for the restoration procedure. Some dental fillings highly resist corrosion, lasting as long as two decades.

Find a Reliable Anaheim Dentist Near Me

Ignoring a decayed or damaged tooth can cause further complications. You may develop an infection that can lead to a tooth abscess and later tooth loss. If you have a decayed, cracked, fractured, broken, or injured tooth, the best course of action is to visit a dentist as soon as possible for treatment.

At Beach Dental Care Anaheim, we perform dental filling treatments to address these tooth-related problems. We will examine your teeth, advise on the ideal dental filling material, and develop a personalized treatment plan that suits your budget and preferences. We also perform many other dental procedures, such as the root canal procedure, implant placement, dental crowns, and dental bridges. Call us at 714-995-4000 if you wish to undergo dental treatment in Anaheim, and we will be pleased to attend to your needs.