Dental fillings are used to restore teeth that have broken down, this can be as a result of various reasons including decay, leaking fillings and cracks. When tooth decay starts it affects the outer layer of the tooth known as the enamel, if decay does not penetrate the enamel then it may still be possible to re-mineralise the enamel without needing a filling. If the decay reaches the second layer of your tooth structure (dentine), then this tooth will need a filling/restoration. This involves removing the decay from your tooth and restoring it with a composite resin (white) filling material.
In cases where a filling is leaking, this means the filling is not 100% bonded to the surface of your tooth, these fillings should be replaced before decay begins in the spaces between your tooth and the filling material. Leaking fillings may often go unnoticed, however, dental x-rays very often reveal underlying decay from a leaking filling.
In cases where a tooth has cracked, it becomes tender on biting and also sensitive to hot and cold. Amalgam fillings commonly cause teeth to crack as they force to tooth to flex on biting. Once the tooth is identified as being cracked, amalgam fillings would usually be replaced with a softer filling material known as glass ionomer. This gives the tooth time to settle down and allows the tenderness and sensitivity to subside, the glass ionomer filling also contains a fluoride concentration which encourages the tooth to remineralise. If the symptoms subside, this tooth will need a crown to prevent the crack from propagating. However, if symptoms do not subside, this means the crack has penetrated to the nerve of this tooth and it will need root canal therapy in order to save it.
Prevention is the absolute best form of treatment, which is why our highly skilled dental practitioners pride themselves on taking a preventative approach for restorative and aesthetic restorations.