We’ve all heard of friends and family going to the dentist for ‘a filling’, it’s part of everyday life; but the humble filling has undergone something of a revolution over the past decade or two.
Over a hundred years ago it was discovered that dental amalgam (a combination of silver, tin, copper plus a few other metals all bound together with mercury) was an effective way to fill holes in teeth. It’s main benefits were that it was cheap, easy to use and didn’t mind being used under copious amounts of saliva. Dentists became very adept at using it but it didn’t look very nice, there was the lingering problem of potential mercury toxicity and technologically it was no more sophisticated than filling a hole in the road. Dentists dug out the decay then packed the amalgam in.
Nowadays we are much more likely to use a material known as Composite Resin to fill teeth – it began to be used in the 1980’s and since that time the material and techniques for its use have slowly advanced to make it the material of choice in everyday dental practice. In fact we use dental amalgam so rarely at The Bay Dental that the time will probably come when younger dentists and nurses will have no idea how it actually works!
Composite resin relies on a tooth being dry in order for the material to adhere to the enamel and dentine surfaces. We use rubber dam wherever possible – our patients like it and it makes our dentistry more successful.
Once the rubber dam is in place we can remove the decay (or broken filling as is shown in this photo) to reveal the tooth underneath.
A special bonding process is then applied to the tooth in order for the filling to stick as strongly as possible to the dentine and enamel surfaces, before we begin to rebuild the tooth anatomy. We have filling materials which match both the enamel and dentine colours in the tooth. Sometimes we need to replace an area of tooth which touches the adjacent tooth. The contact area needs to be tight otherwise food can pack between the teeth – this is not only annoying for our patients but it can cause new decay to form in the area where the food lodges.
This might look like quite a lot of hardware to fit around a single tooth – it is! But it’s made comfortable by the use of local anaesthetic and the rubber sheet means our patients often drift off to sleep whilst we are working.
Where the appearance of a tooth is important we rebuild both the anatomy of the tooth and match the colours and contours in order to restore the tooth in as life-like a way as possible. This can take a little time but the result is so much better then a mouthful of black metal fillings.
Can you guess which tooth has the filling in it?