Tooth decay is usually dealt with by the removal of the deteriorated tooth material and the application of a substance that permanently seals the tooth from further decay or food particles. Application of such materials will vary according to the need and feasibility of the situation, for example some teeth are filled with a composite material that is colored to match the natural color of teeth, and to provide a long-wearing protection. While there are two common choices for fillings – amalgam or composite materials, the most frequently selected of the two is composite. This is because it has a natural appearance and is absent of any potentially harmful substances such as heavy metals or mercury. Early varieties of composite fillings did not offer the durability of the traditional amalgam materials, but today’s technologies have made the composites just as effective and long-lasting as any other variety. The substance can be used to fill decayed or damaged areas of any tooth in the mouth, including the hard-working molars.
Another benefit in selecting the composite fillings is the requirements in tooth preparation, where the amalgams demand a great deal of shaping, the composites require less preparation time, though the actual application process is lengthier than that of the amalgam procedures. Most dental experts have come to agree that the removal of natural tooth material is not desirable, and that is another reason that composite fillings have begun to predominate dental procedures. A critical issue in the use of composite fillings is the experience of the dentist. Older amalgam techniques were not as demanding or specific as those required of the composite fillings, and a skilled dentist is required to obtain the best results. It is important to discuss this with potential dentists to ensure that the quality of the end result is what is desired. Most fillings occur after a patient suffers pain or discomfort in a specific area of their mouth. A brief examination by a dentist, and occasionally a dental x-ray will reveal the presence of decay that has irritated nerves and soft tissue. Once the tooth has been identified the patient will usually have a numbing agent administered to the affected area and the dentist will use drills and even lasers to remove the infected and decayed tissue.
After clearing away the damaged areas of the tooth the dentist will then treat the surface to prevent any further decay from occurring, which usually requires the application of anti-bacterial agents or acid. The tooth is then isolated using a strong clamp and a “rubber dam” which keeps the entire tooth dry, and facilitates the application of the bonding agents in the filling. After application of adhesives or bonding agents the dentist then layers in the composite materials, checking the patients bite comfort at frequent intervals. Once the appropriate shape and covering has been applied a special light is applied to harden the surface. Should a patient experience discomfort when they bite down, the dentist will gently file away any composite materials and complete the application.