According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, “92% of adults 20 to 64 have had dental caries in their permanent teeth.” Dental caries is another term for tooth decay. Tooth decay happens when the tooth enamel is weakened and broken down by harmful bacteria in the mouth, which can lead to a hole in the tooth, more commonly known as a cavity. Most cavities are treated by fillings. More extensively decayed teeth may require more serious treatment, such as a crown or, if the root has been damaged, a root canal.

There are several different types of fillings that dentists use to repair cavities, including composite or porcelain fillings that closely resemble the color of the tooth, amalgam fillings (metal alloy fillings made up of some combination of mercury, silver, tin, and copper), and even gold fillings.

To fill a cavity, the dentist will drill a hole in the tooth to clean away the bacteria that caused the decay in the first place. Next, they “fill” the hole created by the decay and the drill with one of the filling materials described above, which is designed to restore the tooth’s integrity and keep bacteria from re-entering the cavity. Generally, a local anesthesia will be applied to numb the area that the dentist will drill. 

So, how do you know if you need a filling? Your dentist will let you know! This is why it’s important to go for regular dental cleanings and checkups, so that any problems can be identified early and properly dealt with.

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