Dental Fillings: How Do They Work?

Nobody wants cavities.

Best case scenario, we want to go to our routine dental visits and get the all-clear at every visit. Everyone wants to be in the no-cavity club!

But even the best brushers can get cavities. How does that happen? And what happens next?

Let’s take a look at what causes cavities and how we can help with seamless composite fillings in Orlando, FL!

How Do Cavities Happen?

Sugar gives you cavities, right? Not exactly.

Cavities happen when the mineral matrix of your enamel breaks down. What breaks the bonds between molecules in your enamel? Acid.

Bacteria produce acid as a biproduct of their digestion. When they eat sugary and starchy foods, they tend to produce more acid. (More specifically, the types of bacteria that produce the most damaging acid thrive best on sugar.)

So it’s not the sugar itself that damages your teeth. It’s the acid from bacteria eating that sugar.

Your body also produces acid, so if you’re prone to acid reflux or your saliva tends to have a low pH, you’re probably more prone to decay and enamel damage than other people.

Can You Always Prevent Cavities?

Just like everything in life, there are some things you can control and some things you can’t.

When it comes to preventing cavities, the key is to decrease acid exposure and increase minerals in your teeth. How do you do that?

  • Remove bacteria from the teeth.
  • Remove food debris from the mouth.
  • Strengthen your teeth with mineral supplements.

Brushing twice per day with good technique, flossing at least once per day, and using fluoride products will help to shift the balance and decrease your risk for decay. You can also kill excess bacteria and boost your minerals with mouthwash!

But even the best brushing and flossing habits sometimes can’t overcome the factors that are out of your control. Your genetics, your body composition, and what bacteria you tend to grow all factor in, too.

So if you get cavities even though you’re doing everything right, don’t be too hard on yourself! Control what you can and we’re here to help with the stuff you can’t.

Cavity Warning Signs

Cavities can fly under the radar.
  • One tooth becomes sensitive when you’ve never had sensitivity before.
  • Teeth become sensitive to new triggers, especially sugar or acidic foods.
  • Aching, throbbing, or stabbing pain.
  • Visible holes or pits in your teeth.
  • Black or brown staining or discoloration.
  • White spots that appear chalky or brighter than the surrounding tooth.
  • Pain when you bite or chew.

Unfortunately, many cavities develop without any symptoms at all! Ideally, your dental team will diagnose cavities early on, while they’re still small and before they start causing pain or problems.

That’s why routine x-rays are so important!

I Have a Cavity. What Happens Now?

You’ve been holding your breath and crossing your fingers, hoping Dr. Dunn won’t say you have a cavity. But then he points to a dark spot on your x-ray.

Bummer! You have a cavity. So what happens next?

Preparing the Tooth

In most cases, the first thing we’ll do before working on your teeth is get the area completely numb. With DentalVibe®, we can even provide painless dental anesthesia, so you’ll get numb without feeling the shot!

Once you’re comfortable, we’ll remove the damaged tooth material. We’ll also create the right shape to help your new filling last as long as possible.

A prepared tooth, ready for a filling!

Fillings Without the Drill?

Until recently, preparing a tooth for a filling always meant using the dreaded drill.

At Lake Baldwin Dental, we’re proud to offer no-drill fillings in Orlando, FL!

Solea is a specialized dental laser that can remove decayed tooth structure and prepare the tooth. It’s so comfortable that we can usually skip the numbing injection! That means a faster, more comfortable process and no dealing with a numb face after your filling.

Repairing the Tooth

Once your tooth is ready and the damaged enamel has been removed, we’ll rebuild the missing structure with strong, durable materials.

Many patients worry that fillings will look ugly. In the past, most fillings were done with a material called amalgam. It’s a dark, silver material that stands out against white tooth structure.

Although amalgam is durable and can be a great material, today’s composite filling materials have far more advantages.

Our tooth-colored fillings blend seamlessly with the surrounding teeth. That means you can laugh, speak, and smile with confidence.

Composite materials also expand and contract more like natural enamel than amalgam, so it puts less strain on the teeth over time. Because composite flows easily into tight angles, we can also be much more conservative when preparing the tooth, which means removing less enamel and setting the tooth up for better long-term outcomes.

How Long Do Fillings Last?

Different filling materials have different lifespans, and each have their pros and cons. For example, metals like amalgam can last a long time, but they tend to put wear and tear on the teeth and can lead to cracks because of how they expand and contract.

Composite has a shorter lifespan but puts less strain on the tooth. So they tend to be preferable in the long run.

The lifespan of a filling has a lot to do with how well the tooth is prepared and how the filling is placed. With a skilled dentist in an office equipped with the most advanced technology, your fillings can last years to come.

What Happens If a Filling Won’t Work?

In rare cases, the location or size of a cavity makes it impossible or inappropriate to do a filling. So what happens then?

It’s still important to remove the decay and repair the tooth to prevent further issues and infections that can become serious. That may mean treatments like full-coverage crowns. If your cavity is too close to the nerve inside your tooth, we may need to talk about root canal therapy as well.

Your team here at Lake Baldwin Dental is dedicated to making sure you understand your treatment needs and all your options. We’ll always take the time to explain our recommendations and help you make fully informed decisions about your oral healthcare.

Most importantly, we’re here for you, whatever your oral health needs, so you can keep smiling, Orlando!

Cavities don’t stand a chance against our team!