I just had a checkup and my dentist says I need a couple of fillings. My teeth aren’t hurting. Part of me wants to put it off and wait until I am in pain before I do anything. Do I get the fillings done now when everything seems fine or do I wait until I’m in pain to do anything?
Let’s talk about what a filling does and why your dentist would recommend it. When you eat sugary foods, naturally occurring bacteria in your mouth interact with the sugar producing acid. This acid wears away at your tooth enamel. Over time, a yellow or brown spot on your tooth indicates tooth decay, or the wearing away of enamel.
Most of the time the only way to stop decay is to drill it out of your tooth and fill it with a white composite material. Occasionally, if the decay is in its beginning stages, brushing well and using fluoride trays, rinses, and toothpaste can cause your tooth’s enamel to remineralize or harden. But, if you have a cavity, or a hole in your enamel, it won’t go away on its own and must be filled to stop it from spreading decay and becoming bigger.
If you don’t fill a cavity, you are leaving a tiny hole in your tooth that will allow bacteria to enter the interior of your tooth where your tooth’s nerves are. This bacteria can cause an infection on the inside of your tooth called an abscess. If you get an abscess, you will know it! They can really hurt. If you get an abscess, it’s most likely you will need a root canal and eventually a crown.
If your treat cavities as soon as you can, then you limit the damage done to your tooth. The filling a dentist puts on your tooth will be smaller if the cavity is smaller. And hopefully, you can avoid painful and expensive procedures.
How can I avoid having fillings done?
The best way to avoid fillings is to do all in your power to take care of your teeth. Brushing and flossing every day is essential. It’s difficult for most of us to do, but limiting sugar in your diet could also really help your teeth to avoid decay. Fluoride products like toothpaste have been shown to strengthen teeth.
If you can avoid having a cavity in the first place, do it. Once you have a small filling, you could still get decay around the filling. If this happens, your dentist would have to drill out the old filling and the decay and put in a new, larger filling. Fillings, depending on the material used, usually don’t last more than 10 years. That means you will occasionally have to have fillings replaced. Each time you do, they will get larger until eventually you have to have a crown to restore the tooth. If you can avoid going down this path to start with, if you can avoid having a cavity in the first place, your mouth will thank you. This effort is worth it.
Parents, oral hygiene is one battle worth fighting with your kids. If they resist caring for their teeth, don’t give up. Keep trying. You will be glad you did!