If you have never had a cavity, congratulations! If you have had one, you are not alone. About 78% of us have had at least one cavity by the time we reach age 17, according to a 2000 report by the U.S. Surgeon General. Fortunately there’s a time-tested treatment for cavities: the dental filling.
Fillings do just what the name implies — seal a small hole in your tooth, i.e., a cavity, caused by decay. This prevents the decay (a bacteria-induced infection) from spreading further into your tooth and, if untreated, continue on to the sensitive inner pulp (nerve) tissue located in the root canal. Should that happen, you would need root canal treatment.
There are a variety of materials we use to fill teeth these days, but the process of filling a tooth is similar regardless. First, we do a clinical exam of the tooth and, with x-rays, determine the extent of the decay. Then we need to remove the decayed area of the tooth, usually with a dental drill or another handheld instrument. Your tooth will be anesthetized first, so you won’t feel any discomfort. If numbing injections normally provoke anxiety for you, please let us know; we can discuss sedation to help with this. After we remove the decay, all debris is cleaned from the tooth, and then the filling material is applied.