What is a Cavity?Throughout the day, plaque and bacteria accumulate on your teeth. While these substances are naturally occurring, they can be harmful. Both plaque and bacteria produce acids that, when left on the surfaces of your teeth, begin to erode or eat away at the protective enamel. This erosion leads to weak spots. These weak spots eventually turn into small pits, commonly known as cavities. Once cavities have formed, they cannot be reversed. They can grow larger and deeper, compromising the strength of the tooth and leaving it susceptible to infection. One of the most common ways to treat a cavity is with a filling.
Amalgam FillingsAmalgam fillings have been in use for over 150 years. These fillings use a material that is made up of a mixture of metals suspended in mercury. These metals include tin, copper, silver, and nickel. Amalgam is incredibly strong and can stand up to very strong biting and chewing forces. This makes them ideal for cavities affecting your molars, which receive stronger pressures than your front teeth.
While amalgam is incredibly strong, it does have a few drawbacks. For one, it is silver in color. Placing these fillings in teeth near the front of your mouth can significantly impact the quality of your smile, as well as your confidence. Those with metal allergies may experience a reaction. Additionally, many patients express concern about the mercury content.
Amalgam fillings can be placed in a single appointment, and typically require only half an hour to complete. We begin by cleaning the tooth and drilling away the decay. After the decay has been removed, we place the amalgam material into the cavity and smooth it. Finally, it is cured, or hardened, providing your tooth with immediate protection.
Composite FillingsComposite fillings provide an alternative to amalgam. These fillings use composite resin to treat cavities. Composite resin is a mixture of fine glass, plastic, and other materials that are naturally tooth colored. Because of this, they blend in perfectly with the rest of your natural tooth structure, becoming completely unnoticeable. Composite fillings are completely free from mercury and do not contain any metal. They are not, however, as strong as amalgam, and can fracture under excessive pressure. They can withstand the lighter pressures of your front teeth, however. Combined with their color, composite resin fillings are perfect for treating cavities affecting visible teeth.
The process for placing composite fillings is fairly similar to the process of placing amalgam. We begin by cleaning the affected tooth and drilling away the decay. Because composite resin bonds with your tooth, less of its natural structure needs to be removed. We then apply an acid etch to the cavity, which creates a rough texture to enhance the bond between the filling and your tooth. The acid is washed off, and your tooth is dried. The filling material is placed into the cavity and is cured using a special light. Finally, the material is polished smooth.
A filling is a common, simple treatment that restores the health of your tooth following a cavity. If you suspect that you have a cavity, call Encino Cosmetic Dentistry to schedule your appointment today at (818) 783-0408.