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Dentists recommend and perform routine procedures every day. At least, they are routine for the dentist. Dentists can sometimes forget that patients can be very nervous about treatments, or that a patient may not really understand what the treatment involves. If you are dental phobic, not knowing exactly what the treatment involves will probably add to your anxiety. Therefore, we’ve prepared a guide to the most common treatments that will hopefully help you to understand some of the most complex jargon, understand the procedures and feel more comfortable about them.

What is a filling?

When teeth decay, cavities form. Food gets trapped in these cavities and causes our teeth to ache. When we get toothache, that is normally the point at which most of us will visit the dentist and find out that we need a filling.

There are a number of different types of ‘filling’ for tooth cavities, but they all perform the same function: to plug the gap in the tooth so that the ache stops.

Why do I need one?

Well, let’s imagine what would happen if you didn’t have a filling. The more food that gets trapped in your teeth, then the more problems it creates with tooth decay. Your toothache will, therefore, gradually increase in intensity.

A filling will stop the toothache and patch up a tooth with a cavity. However, it will also ensure that they tooth does not degrade any further. This, in turn, may prevent a need for more serious dental work in the future, such as root canal surgery.

What does the treatment involve?

Local anaesthetic is normally required for your dentist to repair a tooth and fill a cavity. Before the cavity is filled, your dentist will drill away the decay and clean the cavity so that no food is trapped in there. The drilling is often the part which sufferers of dental phobia fear most.

Once the tooth has been cleaned sufficiently, the cavity is filled with the appropriate material. It usually begins to set hard within a few minutes.

Will I only require one appointment?

How many appointments you require will depend on the amount of treatment involved. Most cavities can normally be filled in one appointment. In more severe cases, the dentist may choose to fill the tooth with a temporary filling. Temporary fillings will stop pain and stop the tooth from decaying any further, but they are not a long-term solution. Therefore, you should make another appointment to return to the dentist and have a proper filling applied.

What questions do I need to ask?

The most important question to ask your dentist is ‘What kind of filling will they use?’. There are two types of filling that are most commonly used by dentists, so make sure you are getting the one you want.

Amalgam Filling: amalgams are probably the type of filling that we all picture in our minds when we hear the word. They are composites of a variety of metals which include mercury, copper, tin and silver. Amalgam fillings harden quickly and last a very long time. However, they can be unsightly because their colour.

Tooth-coloured fillings: the popular alternative to amalgams are tooth-coloured fillings. The issue with tooth-coloured fillings is that the materials do not last as long as traditional amalgam fillings. Therefore, dentists will only usually recommend them if you need a filling in a particularly visible position, for example in the teeth that are visible when you smile rather than in the teeth at the back of the mouth.

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