Tooth Filling Basics

Tooth decay is among the most common health issues in the world. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), 92% of adults between 20 and 64 have had some form of decay in their permanent teeth. In the earlier stages of decay, a dental filling can be used to replace damaged enamel and repair a cavity. Fillings are a common treatment and NIDCR data indicates that the average adult has 7 permanent teeth with fillings, although this varies based on access to dental care.

More information about decay and fillings:

Tooth Decay and Cavities

A graphic that shows the four different stages of tooth decay, starting with health teeth and ended with decay in the pulp

If you tend to eat or drink a lot of carbohydrates and starches and are not meticulous with dental hygiene, a thin layer of bacteria can start to build up on your teeth. This is known as plaque and it is a sticky substance that can be colorless or pale yellow. A lack of brushing/flossing can allow this plaque to continue to build and it will eventually harden into tartar, which can only be removed by a dental professional.

Plaque that rests on your teeth will form acids. These acids attack the surface of your tooth (enamel) and cause it to lose minerals. This weakens the structure and will result in tooth decay over time. If left untreated, the decay will progress, eventually moving deeper into the tooth structure and causing more serious dental problems.

Cavities, also called dental caries, are a result of the tooth decay process. These are damaged areas where decay has caused a hole in a tooth. They usually start in the enamel, although they can also start on root surfaces, especially for adults with gum recession. You may not notice a cavity beginning to form until it reaches the dentin, which is when most people will start to notice tooth sensitivity and other symptoms. However, some adults with deep cavities may never experience pain or other typical symptoms.

What is a Filling?

In the early stages, a cavity can usually be treated using a dental filling. Fillings, as their name implies, fill in the hole that decay leaves in teeth. They can be made from a variety of different materials.

A cavity before and after using tooth-colored composite resin filling material

In the past, silver amalgam fillings were the most common variety. These are made of a combination of several different metals and have a silver color, making them more noticeable when laughing or smiling. With the advancements in white composite materials, including improvements in strength and longevity, silver fillings are no longer in use at Skyline Dental.

A dentist matching the color of a woman's teeth to create a realistic resin filling

Recent advances in dental technology allow dentists to use tooth-colored fillings which look more natural while still being strong enough to support the tooth. These are made from a composite resin material and your dentist can closely match the color of your tooth for a more natural appearance.

Various types of composite resin that can be used for restorative dentistry

Filling materials are often used to repair cavities, but can also repair worn and chipped teeth, as well as stained teeth to improve their appearance. Stronger but less esthetic composite fillings are often placed on the back teeth where they blend in well and are not noticeable and strength is priority. On front teeth, sometimes several different composite materials may be used within a single filling to mimic exactly the natural layers of our teeth. These materials take into account not only the color to match your existing teeth, but also the opacity and translucency of the dentin and enamel layers of your teeth, so light is reflected properly and appearance is restored seamlessly.

A chipped tooth that has been repaired with composite resin dental bonding

See more examples of before and after results using dental composites in the “minimally invasive cosmetics” section on our before and after page.

The Process of Filling a Cavity

A diagram showing the process of filling a cavity and treating tooth decay

Determining if a Filling is the Best Option

Before you actually get a filling, your dentist will examine your teeth and determine if this is the best option for treating your oral health concerns. In the case of advanced tooth decay, another treatment may be more suitable. Dental crowns are a common option since they cover and protect your tooth. The Skyline Dental Team will discuss your choices with you and make sure you fully understand our recommended course of action.

Ensuring Comfortable Dentistry

To keep you comfortable during your dental procedure, your dentist will inject local anesthetic around the tooth where the filling will go. This is in order to numb the area. At our office, we use state-of-the-art technology to make this process as pain-free as possible.

A dentist using a special light to cure a tooth-colored filling

Tooth-Colored Composite Filling

To ensure that the tooth-colored filling is stable and looks natural, your dentist will apply the material in layers. We use a special light to harden (“cure”) each layer of the composite resin. After the entire space is filled, we will shape the material and polish it.

Dental Care in Tucson, AZ

At Skyline Dental, we offer compassionate and high-quality dental care. If you suspect that you have a cavity, we can examine your teeth and determine how to move forward. For all of our treatments, we take both form and function into account to provide restorative solutions that look natural.

To discuss tooth-colored fillings or other dental treatments, contact us today.

What Causes Short Teeth?

Short teeth can impact your confidence and also cause problems with eating and speaking. This issue can be caused by genetics or can develop due to wear and tear. Identifying the cause of your short teeth is important so that this root concern can be addressed. Once identified, we will use state-of-the-art dental treatments to restore the appearance and function of your smile.

Genetic Causes/Microdontia

Small teeth (microdontia)

Some individuals have teeth that are not only short but are also smaller in general and may look more like baby teeth than adult teeth. This is known as microdontia and is usually caused by a genetic condition.

There are three different types of microdontia. The first, truly generalized microdontia, is when all of a person’s teeth are abnormally small. This is the rarest variety and can be caused by dwarfism, Down’s syndrome, or if a child has chemotherapy or radiation treatment during tooth development. Relatively generalized microdontia is when someone does not actually have small teeth, but their teeth appear smaller than usual because their jaw is larger. Finally, localized microdontia is the most common form. This is when only one tooth is small, often an upper lateral incisor or third molar.

Short Teeth from Wear and Tear

In many cases, short teeth develop over time. This can happen for a number of different reasons, including:

Erosive Wear

Erosive wear can occur if teeth are regularly exposed to acidic substances. This can be intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic erosive tooth wear occurs due to exposure to gastric acids over time. One possible cause is gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), which is a condition where stomach acid comes up into the esophagus. At night, gastric acid can reach the back of the mouth for individuals with GERD, damaging the back teeth. Intrinsic erosive wear can also occur from excessive vomiting due to alcoholism, bulimia, or pregnancy. Extrinsic wear occurs due to external factors such as drinking soda frequently.

The back of a person's teeth with dental erosion, showing yellow exposed dentin and leading to short teeth

In the photo above, you can see that there is yellow showing through the teeth. This is exposed dentin (the inner layer of the tooth). Dentin wears faster than enamel and can be more sensitive, so it’s important to seek dental treatment if you notice this occurring. 

Abrasive Wear

Abrasive wear occurs due to physical pressure on your teeth. One common cause is bruxism, which is when you unconsciously grind or clench your teeth. Bruxism often occurs at night and can occur along with other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. If your teeth are misaligned, uneven bite forces when chewing can accelerate the wear of specific teeth, causing these to be shorter than the teeth around them.

A man with short teeth that have been fixed using dental crowns

Treatment for Short Teeth

If you are unhappy with your smile due to short or small teeth, there are many treatments available.

Some options include:

Treating the Root Cause of Short Teeth

It is important to address the cause of your small teeth in addition to cosmetically enhancing your smile. If you have genetic microdontia, it could be related to a health condition that runs in your family. In this scenario, you will likely need to seek treatment with a physician in addition to working with your dentist to improve your oral health. If your short teeth are due to wear and tear, addressing this issue can help prevent further damage to any restorations and can preserve your new smile for longer. Treatments may include orthodontics for a misaligned bite, wearing a night guard for bruxism, or changes to your diet.

Porcelain Veneers

Porcelain veneers covering worn and stained short teeth

Porcelain veneers are an excellent choice for a long-lasting and natural-looking restoration. These are thin ceramic shells that cover the front of your teeth, adding length and creating a natural shape. With Digital Smile Design, we can show you what your new smile will look like before you start the process of getting veneers.

Composite Bonding

A patient with short teeth that have been lengthened with veneers

Dental bonding is an option that can add length and improve the way your teeth look. Composite veneers conserve more tooth structure and take less time to create than porcelain, but they are less durable. We can discuss your specific case to help you determine which material is a better fit for your needs.

Dental Crown

If you have only one small tooth, a dental crown could be a good option. This is a ceramic cap that covers your natural tooth. This protects the tooth in addition to improving its appearance.

Cosmetic and Restorative Dentistry for Short Teeth

At Skyline Dental, we can determine the cause of your small teeth and restore your smile. Our cosmetic dentist, Dr. James Raymond, is highly skilled and experienced.

Contact us today to discuss options for improving the appearance and function of short teeth.