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White Fillings

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When dental decay creates a “hole”, in a tooth, dental intervention is required. Decay is a process when oral bacteria feed on sugars, the bacteria releases acid as a by-product. This acid can weaken the enamel surface of the tooth and decay is initiated. Eventually the decay propogates through the enamel surface and invades the dentine layer of the tooth. Usually there is NO PAIN until the decay gets so large that it gets close or invades the pulp of the tooth, which contains nerves and blood vessels. If the nerve becomes infected by the decay, then root canal therapy is required. It is much more favourable to intervene before this occurs. Routine dental examinations and x-rays can detect decay before pain starts.Dental Decay

Two Types of White Fillings

If the decay is detected early enough, then a filling is required. The decay is removed from the tooth with a drill. The resultant “hole” after this process requires to be filled to restore the tooth shape, protect the inside of the tooth and prevent further bacteria from creating new decay in the area. Filling historically, amalgam or “silver coloured” fillings were used. These days, there are white materials available, which are strong and match the colour of the tooth. These types of filling materials are used more frequently with some dentists preferring to use them exclusively!

Commonly there are two main types of white fillings, being resin or glass based, or porcelain based. Both types of fillings rely on adhesion to the tooth structure to stay in place.

Resin or glass based fillings, usually are indicated where the hole is small to medium in size. They are performed at the same time the hole is created or can be used to replace old amalgam fillings for aesthetics. The filling is created directly onto the tooth and requires a special light to set the material. They usually have good longevity, depending on the location and size of the filling.

Porcelain fillings usually can be used for any size filling. This type of filling can be either made up by a dental technician in a lab, or performed at the dental surgery with CAD-CAM technology. If the porcelain filling (also known as porcelain inlay or overlay) is to be made by a technician, then 2 appointments are required. If this is made at the dental surgery, then this can be done in one appointment. Porcelain differs by being stronger, long lasting, and more similar to tooth structure. The consideration with porcelain fillings is cost. Because the manufacture and delivery of this type of filling is more involved and sophisticated, the price is usually more than a resin filling, however, well worth the investment.

Your dentist will advise you on the best choice for your tooth, and more than one option may be available. It may be that the tooth is not strong enough to support a filling and a crown may be required! The best treatment is prevention, regular tooth brushing and flossing, a sound diet, combined with regular visits to the dentist, is your best defense against dental decay.

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