What can I do about a cavity?
Did you know…
Cavities don’t usually hurt. Toothaches are more commonly a symptom of a tooth infection.
How it works: The dental filling treatment process
Removal Of Decay
Filling The Tooth
Types of dental fillings
Composite “Tooth-Colored” Fillings
Did you know…
There are more than 3 million cases of cavities in the US every year.
Have questions about cavities and fillings? Find answers here.
What are signs that I might have a cavity?
Typical symptoms include tooth sensitivity to heat and cold, and sensitivity to particularly sugary foods and beverages. Your tooth may also hurt or feel sensitive when you chew or bite down on that side.
In some cases, you may develop a toothache, but this depends on the severity of your cavity. Minor cavities typically won’t cause you pain or discomfort.
You may be able to see a cavity with your naked eye. If you look at your tooth and see small holes, pitting, or black/brown stains, it’s possible that it’s a cavity.
My tooth doesn’t hurt. Why do I need a filling?
By the time your tooth hurts, it may be too late to have it filled. Toothaches usually don’t occur until your tooth has become infected. This happens when an untreated cavity or an oral injury destroys the outer layers of your tooth, exposing the vulnerable pulp that lives inside.
If you do end up with an infected tooth, we won’t be able to treat it with a filling. You will likely need root canal therapy and either a dental filling or dental crown to seal your tooth and prevent further damage. This process is more complex, time-consuming, and expensive than having a cavity filled.
Seeing your dentist every 6 months for a cleaning and an exam will help you prevent cavities altogether. These regular visits will also help your doctor find the issues when they’re still small and relatively easy to treat.
Are dental fillings painful?
Not at all. The process of getting a dental filling is completely painless. Your mouth will be numbed before treatment begins and will stay numbed throughout the procedure. Getting a filling is a fast process, too. You can have your tooth filled in as little as 30-60 minutes.
If you’re nervous at the dentist’s office, you can choose to be sedated during your procedure to ensure that you feel comfortable and safe throughout the process. To get started, just contact your dentist and ask about your options for sedation during your treatment.
How do fillings protect my teeth?
A filling protects your teeth by eliminating decay and then sealing the tooth with a protective filling that maintains its structure and integrity. During the filling process, all the decayed enamel will be removed by your dentist. The cavity is then filled with an artificial material, like dental resin or metal amalgam.
By removing the decayed enamel and the bacteria that’s causing the decay, your dentist will halt the progression of the cavity, preventing it from getting larger and potentially causing a tooth infection. The filling helps protect the underlying tooth structure, and ensures that your tooth remains strong.
What if my cavity is too deep or too large?
During your exam, your dentist will check your tooth and x-rays to determine whether or not a filling is right for you. If you have a very deep or large cavity, a filling may not be the appropriate treatment to strengthen and restore your tooth.
In these cases, your dentist may recommend an alternative treatment, like a dental inlay or onlay, or a dental crown. These treatments are more effective at protecting and restoring teeth that have been severely damaged by decay, and will provide better results.
Dental Filling Materials
Did you know…
Nearly 80% of Americans have had at least one cavity before the age of 18.