Dental Fillings – Lake Forest, CA

A dental filling is a dental material that is used to repair the look & function of a tooth that has been damaged by tooth decay. Fillings are used to fill cavities, or small holes, caused by bacterial acids that have eaten through your tooth. If left untreated, cavities can expand, carving deeper into your tooth & ultimately destroying it. Fillings halt the decay process, thereby saving your tooth & preventing more cost & discomfort in the future.

You may be wondering, “If it’s called a filling, why does it involve drilling a hole?” Fillings aren’t like Band-Aids: we can’t just cover up the damage & expect it to get better. Unlike pretty much every other part of you body, teeth cannot heal themselves when they get damaged or infected. In order to restore your tooth back to the way it should be, we have to remove the decay first. That’s what we’re doing when we use the drill when applying a filling. Yes, it does make the hole caused by the decay a little bigger temporarily, but it’s better than leaving any decay that could hurt your tooth more in the long run.

The dental filling procedure is a very routine & relatively simple treatment. We will start by giving you a local anesthetic to numb the area, if necessary. Numbing may not be necessary for very small fillings, but feel free to ask the dentist about it if you are concerned about discomfort.

Next, the dentist will remove the decay using a drill. Once the decay is removed, the dentist may use the drill a little more to shape the tooth so the filling will fit better. They dentist may also etch the inner surfaces of the space with an acid gel to help the filling hold on better later. If the material used for the filling involves resin, the dentist may use a special bright light to harden it. At the very end of the procedure, we will polish to tooth to make it smooth & shiny like the rest of your teeth.

There are several types of materials that can be used for fillings. What type gets used will depend on the condition of your tooth, how you want it to look & your budget. Your dentist will always want to choose the option that optimally restores the look & function of your tooth.

The most common materials are gold, amalgam (silver), composite (plastic) resin & porcelain. Metal fillings are more common on back teeth (molars) because they don’t show when you smile. However, many patients prefer a tooth-colored, metal-free option, regardless of where in the mouth the filling will be. At our office we prefer to use new & advanced tooth fillings made of tooth-colored materials. This material is made of durable composite resin or porcelain. Tooth-colored fillings are used on the front teeth where a natural appearance is important. They can be used on the back teeth as well, depending on the location & extent of the tooth decay. Ultimately, the decision on which material to use for your dental filling will be the result of a well-informed discussion between you & the dentist.

Amalgam (Metal) Fillings

Amalgam is one of the most affordable & long-lasting materials used to repair teeth. Amalgam fillings are made from a blend of metals including silver, tin, copper & mercury. This material is very long-lasting but less costly that other filling materials such as gold or tooth-colored composites. Amalgam fillings are sometimes referred to simply as silver fillings because of their silver color.

Silver-colored fillings are very durable, which is why they are often used on larger back teeth (i.e. molars) that experience strong forces when you bite & chew. Some patients choose to have more expensive tooth-colored fillings on front teeth & have more affordable amalgam fillings on the back teeth because they don’t show when a person smiles. Some patients may be wary of amalgam because it contains mercury. However, mercury is stable when combined with the other materials in amalgam, & scientific reviews by the American Dental Association, the United States government, the Mayo Clinic & the World Health Organization all confirm amalgam fillings are safe. The fact that amalgam fillings are not natural-looking may be their one drawback.

Composite Fillings

Tooth-colored fillings are made of durable composite, which is like plastic & can be made to have the same texture, color & luminosity of natural teeth. Composite can be used both for fillings & to repair defects in the teeth. Composite fillings are often used on the front teeth where a natural appearance is important. They can be used on the back teeth as well, depending on the location & extent of the tooth decay.

While our biggest concern is the health & function of your teeth, we are proud to offer tooth filling options that do not affect the aesthetics of your smile.