You’ve seen your Mission Viejo dentist and learned you have a cavity. That means you’ll need a filling. If you’ve never had a filling done before, you may have some questions. What steps are involved? What types of materials are used for fillings? What are their advantages and disadvantages? Let’s explore those questions.

Every dentist has his or her own method, but generally the first step will be to apply a local anesthetic to numb the surrounding area. A drill, air abrasion device or laser will be used to carve out the decayed portion of the tooth. The dentist will then explore the area to make sure all the decay has been removed. The area will be cleaned and readied for the filling material. Next, the filling material will go in, and, finally, the dentist will finish and polish it. There are a few extra steps for tooth-colored fillings.

When it comes to filling materials, there are several. Your Mission Viejo dentist will talk to you about your choices. Typical choices include gold, silver and tooth-colored plastic and glass materials. A number of variables come into play when choosing a material, including the extent of the decay, the cost of the material, whether or not your insurance will cover it, and your dentist’s expertise and recommendation.

Cast gold fillings last 10 to 15 years or longer and don’t erode. They can handle chewing pressure, and some people prefer the look of gold fillings. They are, however, expensive and require a minimum of 2 office visits to put in place. If you already have a silver amalgam filling and the gold filling is placed directly next to it, in rare cases it can also cause a sharp pain known as galvanic shock.

Silver fillings also last 10 to 15 years and stand up well to chewing forces. They are less expensive than gold or composite fillings. The drawback is that they don’t match teeth color and are not all that attractive. They can cause the surrounding tooth to turn gray, and the material is more susceptible to experiencing a wide degree of expanding and contracting, which can cause the filling or surrounding tooth to crack.

Tooth-colored fillings closely match the color of your tooth and chemically bond to the tooth. They can be used to mend chipped or worn teeth, as well. Their biggest disadvantage is that they only last about 5 years. They can chip, and they cost about 5 times as much as silver amalgam.