If a dentist observes the presence of decay, they may recommend a filling to ensure the tooth does not further deteriorate. Fillings may also be used to repair cracked or chipped front teeth. The actual procedure of getting a simple filling is not painful, and the most pain a patient should feel during the process is a pinch from the injection used to anesthetize the area surrounding the filling. The process of getting a filling may be as quick as 20 minutes from start to finish and the effect of the anesthetic will dissipate shortly after the procedure is complete. If a more extensive restoration is required, the dentist may recommend an inlay, onlay, dental crown, or veneer instead.
Most teeth fillings are placed using a dental resin. There are many resin color shades available to closely match the natural shade of the tooth and blend with the adjacent teeth. If the filling is done with proper attention to detail, it should be virtually indistinguishable from natural tooth structure, except when there is a contrast on a bitewing or panoramic x-ray. When placing a filling, the dentist will initially numb the area around the filling site. After the site is numb, the dentist will use the drill to remove the decayed tooth material and rinse the void in the tooth. An etching gel is used to prepare the surface for a filling and subsequently rinsed off. After the area is prepared for the filling, the dentist takes the resin of matching shade and places it over the void. The filling material is shaped and cured using an ultraviolet light. Excess filling material is drilled away and the tooth is shaped to resemble a natural tooth. Once the tooth is shaped, the patient will be asked to bite down on articulation paper to mark any areas of stress that may alter the patient’s chewing and overall bite. The additional excess material is drilled away and process of filling the cavity is complete.
Since there are no nerves in the enamel of a tooth, it is unlikely that the patient will feel any increased pain or sensitivity during the earliest stages of a cavity. As the cavity progresses towards the dentin and pulp of a tooth, they are likely to feel more teeth sensitivity. Dentists can easily identify cavities during a routine dental examination by reviewing dental x-rays and inserting a probe around suspicious areas. If a cavity is not treated in the earlier stages, the patient is likely to feel a great deal of pain in the future as the tooth further decays. It may even be necessary to perform a root canal to restore a severely decayed tooth. A root canal is a much more expensive and complex procedure compared to a simple filling, so that underscores the importance of routine dental examinations along with early detection and treatment of tooth decay.