What actually happens during an appointment for a dental filling?
Not every tooth that requires a filling needs to be numbed. If the problematic part of the tooth is very small or a long distance away from the middle of the tooth where the nerve is, then there is no need for local anaesthetic. In these cases you won’t feel anything at all besides a few vibrations when your tooth is prepared for a filling.
If you do require local anaesthetic, we will spend a couple of minutes rubbing some numbing paste on your gum where it will go. The paste numbs the superficial gum a little before the actual injection is given to provide full anaesthesia. We will wait a few minutes as well as test the area to make sure you are fully numb before we proceed with the preparation of the tooth for the filling.
Preparing The Tooth
If the tooth has decay or some damaged tooth structure that cannot be kept, it must be removed before placing a filling. The tooth is then usually chemically cleaned and roughened with a special tooth conditioner which allows the filling to better stick to the tooth.
Placing The Filling
These days we use tooth coloured filling material called composite resin and glass ionomer cement or a combination. A special band may be placed between the tooth that needs the filling and the tooth next to it. This helps shape the filling and prevents two teeth being glued together so that flossing is still possible. Filling material is then placed into the prepared tooth, usually in layers if the size of the filling is going to be large.
The material is either set hard or the setting accelerated with a special bright blue light. Usually you will wear dark glasses to shield your eyes from the blue light. The dental assistant may cover the area with an orange coloured paddle as well as you cannot see the bright blue through the orange.
Polishing The Filling
Your dentist will shape the filling and trim it to match how you bite together. You may be asked to bite and grind your teeth on some blue marking paper which helps the dentist check whether the filling is fine in the bite or not. The filling can then be polished.
Being artificial substitutes, fillings will always feel a little different to tooth structure, but you should get used it a new filling within a few days. You won’t be able to eat or drink for 2 hours. This gives the filling more setting time as some parts may be self-setting and requires more time to get to maximum hardness. This also gives time for the numbness to wear off if you had local anaesthetic. You don’t want to accidentally bite or burn your lip, cheek or tongue or choke on some food.