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.
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