When you go for a dental exam, the dentist will check your teeth for signs of decay. They will also check all existing fillings to make sure they are not broken or loose. If there are any signs of cavities or faulty fillings, the dentist will recommend getting them filled, as cavities and faulty fillings that are left untreated will worsen over time and cause pain. If left untreated, the tooth may even have to be removed and replaced with a false tooth.
There are two main ways to do fillings. Direct fillings are done by removing the faulty filling or decay, and placing the filling directly into the cavity. The two most common types of direct fillings are amalgam (silver) and composite (plastic or white) fillings. These filling materials harden quickly and can be completed in one appointment.
Traditionally, amalgam (silver) fillings have been the most common material used in dentistry, due to their strength, durability, and ease of placement. However, the introduction of composite resin (white) fillings has led to the shift towards placement of white fillings due to its improved esthetics over amalgam fillings. As composite resin fillings have continued to improve in strength, durability, and esthetics, they have become the material of choice for dentists and patients alike.
Indirect fillings are crowns, caps, and inlays. These are custom made in a lab and subsequently cemented on to your tooth. Most indirect restorations take two or more appointments to complete.
A crown, also known as a cap, is a hollow, artificial tooth that can be used to cover damaged or decayed tooth. Crowns can be made from various materials, including metal, porcelain, and zirconia. A tooth that has been fixed with a crown can look, feel, and function just like a natural tooth!
Crowns are usually recommended in the following situations:
- Endodontically treated teeth. After a tooth is root canal treated, it becomes more fragile and more prone to fracture. Placing a crown on the tooth will minimize the risk of fracture.
- Heavily restored teeth and/or teeth with large fillings. Similar to endontically treated teeth, the remaining tooth structure in teeth with large restorations is more prone to fracture. Placing a crown on the tooth will again minimize the risk of fracture.
- Cracked tooth. If a tooth is cracked, the symptoms may be resolved by protecting it with a crown. This is true especially if the crack is contained within the coronal portion of the tooth. For deeper cracks, a root canal may be necessary to relieve symptoms.
- Discoloured or misshapen teeth. If you are unhappy with the shape/size/color/shade of your front teeth, or if you have mild spacing/crowding, crowns can be used to correct the issue.
The air abrasion device works like a sandblaster. Tiny aluminum oxide particles are emitted through a powerful stream of air from the tip of a device, allowing it to remove decayed tooth structure. The treatment is fast and painless, and may also eliminate the use of needles in some situations!