Getting a filling is one thing, but what happens when you leave the dental office? Get tips on keeping your mouth healthy beyond the dentist’s chair.
We all know that maintaining oral health is important, but despite that, very few people escape needing tooth fillings at some point in their lives — particularly in childhood. Tooth decay caused by cavities is extremely common. Luckily, the process of getting a filling is simple and, with the help of local anesthetic, often entirely pain-free!
As with any medical or dental procedure, the process isn’t over when you walk out the door. While you will be able to go back to your normal routine right away, there might be some habits that you need to change to prevent issues from occurring.
What Happens When You Get a Filling?
Whether it’s your first time getting a filling or your tenth time, the process is always the same. Before you begin, you and your dentist first have to decide on the type of filling you’re going to get. There are four main types of tooth fillings to choose from:
- Gold fillings: Typically the most expensive filling material requiring multiple visits, gold fillings are made to order and cemented in place.
- Amalgam fillings: Amalgam, or silver, fillings are relatively inexpensive and they are quite resistant to wear. Because of their dark color, amalgam fillings typically aren’t the best choice for highly visible areas, but they’re a good choice for teeth in the back of your mouth.
- Composite fillings: These fillings, made of a composite resin, look more natural because they’re matched to the color of your teeth. Unfortunately, composite resins are less durable and can become stained just like teeth, so they don’t last as long as other types of fillings.
- Porcelain fillings: These fillings, called inlays or onlays, are custom-made in a lab then bonded to your teeth. They’re matched to your tooth color and resist staining, but they are also as expensive as gold.
Once you’ve picked your filling material, the dentist can get started.
First, you’ll likely get local anesthesia to numb the area, just like you might for a tooth extraction. Then your dentist will likely use a drill to cut through the enamel to remove decay and shape the dentin (second layer of the tooth) to prepare it for the filling. They may put in a liner or base to protect the tooth’s pulp (which is where the nerves are). Depending on the type of filling material you’re getting, your dentist might first place a bonded filling. They will then place the final filling and harden it, sometimes using a bright light if it’s a composite resin. Finally, the dentist will finish by polishing to remove any sharp edges.
Recovering From a Filling: The Dos and Don’ts
While recovering from a filling is nowhere near as intense a process as recovering from a root canal or a tooth extraction, there are a number of steps you need to take to ensure a healthy mouth following a trip to the dental office. Here are some top tips for maintaining your dental health after a filling!
- Be wary of the anesthetic: If you got local anesthetic for the procedure, it probably won’t wear off for a few hours after you leave the dental office. Since you won’t be able to feel any pain in the areas that were anesthetized, it’s important that you’re very careful to avoid hurting your gums, lips, tongue, or teeth. If possible, you may want to avoid eating until you regain normal feeling in your gums to avoid accidentally hurting yourself.
- Bite into food carefully: You may experience tooth sensitivity following a filling. You should be careful biting into food after a filling as you determine what kind of sensitivity you’re experiencing. Plus, not every type of filling is set immediately, so it’s a good idea to avoid biting into harder foods (like carrots, croutons, and more) with that tooth — or even that side of your mouth — for a couple of days to support the healing process.
- Don’t smoke: This may seem like a given (or like a needless thing to mention for the many non-smokers who get fillings every day), but tobacco use is just as bad for your dental health as it is for all your other types of health. No matter your smoking habits, using tobacco products or even cannabis can be dangerous after a filling. Not only does smoking while your mouth is still numb bring a risk of physical injury that includes burns, smoking any time after a filling can increase the chance of infection.
The fact is, smoking weakens your body’s immune system. The result is that smokers get gum disease twice as often as non-smokers — and treatments for gum disease are not as effective for smokers as for non-smokers. That means that if you’re serious about your dental health, it’s time to ditch your smoking habit for good, whether or not you’re recovering from a filling.
- Maintain good oral health: It can be hard to stick to your dental care habits, but if you’re serious about preventing future cavities and protecting your current fillings, it’s important that you make oral health a priority. Make sure you brush your teeth with toothpaste at least twice a day. You should also use mouthwash when possible and engage in regular flossing (at least once a day). After all, dentistry can only do so much. It’s important that you take care of your teeth too!
Start Prioritizing Your Dental Care Today
Getting a filling may be a simple and relatively pain-free process, but it’s best to avoid if at all possible. The best way to do that is by practicing good oral hygiene all year round — not just after a filling. Not only should you brush your teeth and floss regularly, it’s also important that you get a professional dental cleaning every six months.