I’m sure this situation is one that many can relate to but do you too recognise the distinct smell of the dentist’s office? For some, this sensory experience triggers good memories but for others, it could send chills down your spine. Personally, the latter applies more to me. It was only after growing up that I realised my irrational fear of going to the dentist could be explained by the repeated “bad” encounters when I was young.
I’ve always had a sweet tooth and almost every time I visited the dentist, the dentist would explain that I had cavities and needed to get dental fillings. I kid you not, from the tender ages of 7-15 I probably got around 5-8 dental fillings for cavities.
I’m writing this in hopes that you won’t suffer my fate and learn to care for your teeth. So let’s dive straight into it…
Generally, dental fillings are most commonly used to treat cavities (also known as tooth decay) but it is also used to repair cracked/broken tooth or worn down tooth due to misuse (e.g. : tooth grinding and nail biting). The dental filling helps restore the tooth to its original state while preventing plaque and bacteria growth within the tooth which could lead to severe tooth damage. An added benefit is that dental fillings can toughen the tooth, reducing the risk of chipping and cracking when pressure is applied to the tooth.
Types of Dental Fillings
Did you know that there are many different types of dental fillings? If you’re wondering which types are best suited for you, you’ve come to the right place!
- Gold Fillings: Custom made in a dental laboratory before it is bonded to your tooth. The gold material is very durable and is estimated to be able to last more than 20 years. Gold is also well tolerated by the gums and many consider gold fillings to be superior to other types of dental fillings
- Amalgam (silver) Fillings: Amalgam fillings are the “original” dental fillings and have been around for the longest time compared to the other types of dental fillings. Amalgam fillings are made with a combination of metallic elements which makes it very strong with an estimated of 10-15 years of durability. However, due to its contrast with the natural colour of the tooth, its downside lies in its visibility
- Porcelain Fillings: Porcelain fillings are fabricated in the dental laboratory before it is bonded to the tooth. The colour of the porcelain can be specially adjusted to match your natural tooth colour which suggests that it gives a natural finishing look. Additionally, porcelain is stain resistant and very durable. Porcelain fillings are estimated to last up to 20 years
- Composite (plastic) Resin Fillings: Similarly, the colour of this filling can also be matched to your natural tooth colour. However, they are less suited for filling large gaps as they may wear off over time. It has been estimated to last around 3-10 years. Composite resin fillings are also not stain resistant which may require one to take more care in preventing discolouration
- Glass Ionomer Fillings: The glass isomer filling is made with a combination of glass and acrylic. This blend releases fluoride which helps to prevent further tooth decay. However, with an estimated life of 5 years and more, it is less durable than most other dental filling and are more suited for use on non-biting surfaces or baby teeth
Cost of Dental Fillings
With so many types of dental fillings, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they all have varying cost. Here are the estimated cost range for dental fillings in Singapore from least to most expensive.
*Note that prices listed are estimates and vary depending on individual scenario and clinic choice
- Amalgam (silver) Fillings : $50-$300 per tooth (Most affordable)
- Glass Ionomer Fillings : $75-$300 per tooth
- Composite (plastic) Resin Fillings : $100-$500 per tooth
- Porcelain Fillings : $150-$500 per tooth
- Gold Fillings : $800-$2000 per tooth (Most expensive)
Tooth Filling Process
At this point, you should be wondering “So what is the process of getting dental fillings?”.
- Anaesthesia—The dentist will first apply local anaesthesia to the region surrounding the cavity.
- Decay Removal—Next, the dentist will use a drill or air abrasion instrument to remove the decay and thoroughly clean the tooth, removing any debris
- Probe—The dentist may probe the tooth to test if it is thoroughly clean
- Filling—The chosen filling is then applied to the tooth
*For certain tooth coloured fillings, the dental filling will be applied on by layers. With every layer of filling, a special light will be shone on it to harden (also known as cure) the layer
- Wrapping up—Finally, the dentist will finish up by polishing the filling
Do dental fillings hurt?
Remember when I said I had “bad” encounters with the dentist, don’t get me wrong, it’s not because getting dental fillings were painful. Rather, as a young child, I was frightened by the loud sounds of cleaning equipment. I was simply uncomfortable that I had to keep my wide open mouth while foreign tools were placed into my mouth. (Plus the fact that I was subjected to my mom’s nagging once I got home probably didn’t help with associating going to the dentist with good things.)
With reference to Step 1 of the Tooth Filling Process, local anaesthesia helps to numb the area which is cleaned. This reduces any pain or sensitivities felt by the patient, so essentially you don’t have to worry about feeling pain.
What should you do if your dental fillings fall out?
Like all things, dental fillings don’t last forever. Sometimes they can fall out due to reasons like, biting and chewing too hard, teeth-grinding, trauma to tooth or even formation of new decay. Well, if you ever happen to experience dental fillings falling out, the first step is don’t panic!
Next, you can adopt some of these behaviours:
- Call your dentist—Tell him/her if you feel any pain or other sensitivity symptoms. Your dentist will advise you what to do and schedule an appointment for you.
- Brush your teeth gently—It is of essence that your teeth are kept clean to prevent any bacterial growth. You should brush gently to prevent/reduce pain and sensitivity around the area.
- Avoid biting and chewing on the affected area—Don’t make matters worse by continuing to chew with the tooth. If possible, try using the other side of the mouth to bite and chew.
- Remain Alert—If you cannot visit the dentist immediately, be aware of the situation surrounding the tooth. You should be sharp to notice changes should there be an emergency. (e.g.: more cracks on tooth, sudden bleeding or extreme pain)
Point 4 of What should do if your dental fillings fall out? remains especially important in times like this. This quarantine period could suggest that your dentist may not be readily available, therefore you have to responsible for your own well-being.
Here at Vivid Dental Surgeons, we aim to educate our patients on matters regarding oral hygiene and health. Especially amidst this COVID-19 period, we encourage everyone to stay safe and maintain good oral hygiene. Let’s all do our part in keeping the community and ourselves healthy.
If you liked this article, you can click here to read other oral health related articles posted on our blog.
Additionally, if you have any questions regarding dental fillings or other oral health related matters, feel free to drop Dr Ryan a message here.
Dr Ryan and the Vivid Dental Team wishes everyone a pleasant and virus-free day ahead!