Your Guide to Back Tooth Cavity Filling: Types, Procedure, and Aftercare

tooth decay
Do you experience discomfort or sensitivity in your back teeth when biting or chewing?

If so, you may have a cavity that needs to be filled. Tooth decay is one of the most common dental problems, affecting people of all ages. However, with modern dentistry techniques, treating cavities has become easier and more effective than ever before.

In this article, we will discuss the different types of fillings available for back teeth, how to care for them and their potential complications. Keep reading to learn more and ensure that your smile stays healthy and pain-free.

Key takeaways:

  1. Tooth decay is a common dental condition affecting millions of people worldwide.

  2. Preventing tooth decay from progressing further is crucial.

  3. Remineralizing products may help reverse the early signs of tooth decay, but once a cavity has formed, a filling is necessary.

  4. The type of filling material recommended depends on the stage of the cavity.

  5. Direct fillings, including amalgam, composite, and glass ionomer cement, are performed directly in the mouth, require only one visit, and may be sufficient for small to medium-sized cavities.

  6. Indirect restorations, including inlays/onlays, overlays, and crowns, require two visits to the dentist and may be recommended for larger cavities or badly damaged teeth.

  7. Aftercare is essential to maintaining the longevity of your dental filling.

When do you need a filling?

Tooth decay is a common dental condition affecting millions of people worldwide. According to a CDC report, 90% of adults aged 20 and older have had at least one cavity.

If left untreated, it can cause irreversible damage to the tooth's hard layers, including the enamel and dentin.

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent tooth decay from progressing further. At the early stage, your dentist may recommend remineralizing products to stop the disease from worsening and help reverse the early signs of cavities.

However, once the decay has progressed and a cavity has formed, a filling is necessary. At this stage, it appears as a hole or black discoloration on the tooth's surface. As soon as you notice it, it's essential to treat it promptly before it causes further damage to your tooth. cavity stage on back teeth

What type of dental filling do you need for your back teeth?

When it comes to choosing the best dental filling material for your back teeth, it ultimately depends on the stage of the cavity. There are two main types of dental restorations: direct and indirect.

Direct restorations are performed directly in the mouth by your dentist and require only one visit.

Indirect restorations, on the other hand, require two visits, as they need lab work to create a custom-fit restoration.

If the cavity is not too deep, a direct filling with a tooth-colored material such as composite would be sufficient to restore the appearance and function of your tooth. Direct filling of a slightly damaged molar is possible
However, if your molar is severely damaged, such as with a large cavity, then an indirect restoration may be recommended. These include Inlays/Onlays, overlays, and crowns, which are known to provide better protection for teeth that are too weakened. Direct filling of a badly damaged molar is not possible

1. Direct fillings:

1. Amalgam:

Amalgam fillings are among the oldest dental materials used in dentistry and are still popular today.

They are composed of a mixture of metals, including silver, copper, and tin, which makes them strong, durable, long-lasting, and able to withstand the pressure of chewing and biting. For this reason, amalgam fillings are often recommended for larger cavities on the back teeth.

However, amalgam fillings are silver in color and can be visible when you smile, which may not be ideal if you prefer a more natural-looking restoration. amalgam filling of back teeth

2. Composite:

Composite fillings are tooth-colored and made of a resin material that is bonded to the tooth. Although they are less durable than amalgam, they can be a great option for back teeth and provide a natural-looking restoration that blends in perfectly with your natural teeth.

Composite fillings are also less invasive than other types of dental restorations, as they require less removal of healthy tooth structure. This makes them a popular choice for patients who prefer a natural-looking and minimally-invasive treatment option.

However, composite fillings are not suitable for all situations. They are typically preferred for small to medium-sized cavities, as they may not provide sufficient support for deeper cavities or badly damaged teeth.
composite filling of an upper molar

3. Glass Ionomer Cement (GIC):

GIC fillings are a type of dental cement that is made of a mixture of glass powder and an organic acid. They release fluoride over time, which can help prevent further decay and strengthen the tooth. They are also known for their ability to bond to the tooth structure, which means that less healthy tooth structure needs to be removed during the filling process.

However, GIC fillings are not as durable as other types of filling materials like amalgam or composite. They are more prone to wear and tear, which can lead to a shorter lifespan.

2. Indirect restorations:

1. Inlays/Onlays:

These are custom-made restorations that fit into a cavity in the tooth. Inlays can restore smaller cavities without cusps coverage. As for onlays, they can fill larger cavities that extend to one or more cusps.

Inlays and onlays are usually made of porcelain or composite resin materials and require two visits to the dentist - one to prepare the tooth and take impressions, and another to place the final restoration.
Inlay and Onlay for back teeth

2. Overlays:

These are similar to inlays and onlays, but they cover the entire chewing surface of the tooth, including one or more cusps. Like inlays and onlays, overlays are custom-made in a dental lab and require two visits to the dentist to complete.
overlays for worn back teeth

3. Dental Crowns:

A dental crown is a custom-made cap that fits over the entire visible portion of a tooth above the gum line.

Crowns are usually made of metal or ceramic materials, or a combination of both.

Crowns are used to restore teeth that are severely damaged or decayed, or that have undergone a root canal procedure. They can also be used to improve the appearance of a tooth that is misshapen, discolored, or otherwise unsightly.

Like the previous ones, crowns require two visits to the dentist - one to prepare the tooth and take impressions, and another to place the final restoration.

The procedure:

The molar filling procedure is relatively straightforward and can usually be completed in one appointment with your dentist. The specific steps may vary slightly depending on the material used, but your dentist will guide you through the process and make sure you feel comfortable throughout. Here are the steps for filling a back tooth with composite:

  1. Local Anesthesia: To ensure you are comfortable throughout the procedure, your dentist will first administer a local anesthetic to numb the area around the tooth being filled.

  2. Removing the Decay: Using a dental drill or other specialized tools, your dentist will remove the decayed tissue from the tooth and shape it to prepare it for the filling.

  3. tooth decay removal on a molar tooth
  4. Applying Acid Gel: To help the filling material adhere to the tooth, an acid gel is applied to the surface of the tooth. This gel creates a rough surface that the filling material can bond to.

  5. applying acid gel to the tooth
  6. Adhesive Placement: Next, your dentist will apply a dental adhesive to the tooth to further enhance the bond between the filling material and the tooth.

  7. adhesive placement on the cavity
  8. Placing the Composite Filling: Using a special instrument, your dentist will place the composite filling material into the prepared cavity in your tooth. They will shape the filling to match the contours of your tooth and ensure it is properly positioned.

  9. Hardening the Filling: Once the filling is in place, a special light is used to harden the material. This process, called curing, ensures the strength and durability of the filling.

  10. Finishing and Polishing: After the filling has hardened, your dentist will trim and shape it to ensure it fits properly with your bite. They will then polish the filling to give it a smooth and natural appearance.
  11. placing the composite filling and finishing

How long can dental filling last?

When it comes to dental fillings, the longevity of the filling material is an important consideration. Amalgam fillings are known for their durability and can last up to 10-15 years or even longer with proper care.

On the other hand, composite fillings typically last around 5-10 years, although this can vary depending on the location of the filling and how much wear and tear it undergoes.

Glass ionomer cement fillings are the least durable of the three, generally lasting around 5 years or less.

However, you should know that these estimates are just averages and every patient is different. Factors such as oral hygiene habits, the location of the filling, and the size and shape of the cavity can all affect the lifespan of a filling. That's why it's important to discuss your options with your dentist to find the best filling material for your individual needs.

Potential complications of dental fillings:

While dental fillings are generally very successful, there is always a risk of failure over time. Several symptoms may indicate that a filling needs to be replaced.

One common symptom is sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures that lasts for more than a month.

Another symptom is the presence of a fracture, either in the tooth or in the restoration itself. The recurrence of a cavity under the filling is also a sign of failure.
composite filling of back teeth complications: Fracture and tooth decay
In addition to these symptoms, if the filling is not properly fitted, it can damage the tooth's nerve. This can lead to infection with severe pain, swelling and even an abscess.

The good news is that most of these complications are preventable with proper care and regular check-ups with your dentist. With the right measures, you can ensure that your fillings last as long as possible.

How to care for your dental filling properly?

Here are some tips on how to properly maintain your dental fillings:

  • Maintain good oral hygiene: Brush your teeth twice a day and floss once a day to prevent decay from forming around your fillings.

  • Watch what you eat and drink: Avoid sugary and acidic foods and beverages that can damage your fillings, such as hard candy, soda, and citrus fruits.

  • Don't grind your teeth: Teeth grinding can cause your fillings to crack or become dislodged, so it's important to wear a mouthguard at night if you grind your teeth.

  • Visit your dentist regularly: Regular check-ups allow your dentist to detect any problems with your fillings early and address them before they become serious.

  • Consider replacing old fillings: Over time, fillings can wear down or become damaged, so it's important to have them checked regularly and replaced if necessary.