I never had a cavity in my life. Now I have 2! At least that’s what my dentist says. I admit I am a little skeptical because I’ve only had two appointments with this dentist, and I am seriously thinking about getting a second opinion. Dentists’ offices make me a little nervous, so can you tell me the steps of getting a tooth filled? Thanks, Samuel from Omaha
If you are skeptical about whether you have cavities, it is best to get a second opinion.
But if you need fillings, a gentle dentist can make filling a cavity a quick, pain-free process.
How Does a Dentist Fill a Tooth?
A dentist fills a tooth by cleaning it, removing the decay, and cleaning it again. Below are typical steps that a dentist will use for a direct composite filling:
- Apply topical anesthetic to the injection site
- Numb your tooth and the area around it with a local anesthetic
- Your dentist may use a bite block to keep your mouth open. Insert a small rubber dam in your mouth to isolate your tooth. This will prevent your jaw muscles from tiring out while you try to keep your mouth open.
- Use a tool (drill, laser, or air abrasion) to remove the decay from your tooth quickly. You will not feel anything because your tooth will be numb. A dental assistant will work with your dentist and use a suctioning device to remove the debris from your mouth.
- Use an air/water unit to clean your tooth.
- Use a liner to protect the tooth nerve—mainly if the decay is close to a tooth nerve.
- Use a blue gel to create tiny holes in the tooth, to which dental composite will bond. Your dentist will remove the gel.
- Apply a bonding agent to the tooth and spread a preselected shade of dental composite over it
- Shape the composite and harden it with a curing light
- Check your bite to ensure the filling is not too high or too low
- If your bite (the way your teeth fit together when you bite or chew) is correct, smooth and polish the composite. Otherwise, your dentist will make further adjustments to ensure that your filling aligns with your bite.
Michael Szarek, DMD, an accredited cosmetic dentist in Lowell, Massachusetts, sponsors this post.