There is a misconception among people that whenever one has a toothache, or any problem related to teeth, the only way out is extraction.
However, according to dentists, there are different ways to treat teeth without necessarily removing them, depending on the severity of the affected teeth.
One such treatment, they say, is dental filling or dental restoration.
According to Pacific Nkusi, a dentist at King Faisal Hospital, a dental filling is a procedure whereby the damaged and the decayed part of a tooth is removed and the area where the tooth has been removed is then filled with replacement material, for protect against further damage and to restore the tooth’s appearance and function.
He says that the materials used in replacement, known as the filling materials, can be made out of gold, silver amalgam, composite resin, glass and porcelain among others.
“The most common material used in filling the teeth nowadays are composite resin fillings and are mostly preferred by many dentists because of their advantages,” he says.
He explains that this is so because this kind of tooth filling material is a white filling and blends in with the surrounding tooth structure for a natural appearance.
However, he notes that each type of tooth filling material has its own set of advantages, which the dentist has to weigh along with the patient’s specific considerations to determine the most appropriate one to be used.
AT WHAT POINT DOES ONE NEED A DENTAL FILLING?
Gonzalue Niyigaba, a dentist at University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK), says before the dental filling is done, there are reasons that lead to this.
He explains that when people don’t brush their teeth, take food or beverages with a lot of sugar; with time, they develop dental cavities.
“Cavities are holes in the teeth and if one doesn’t visit a dentist, the holes eventually become bigger in size because of the stuck food inside the tooth which the bacteria find in the mouth feed on,” he says.
He says brushing after every meal is the best time unlike brushing in the morning only which most people are used to.
Niyigaba says most teeth get damaged at night when one has slept with food residues in their teeth; because of this, the bacteria attacks the food particles and this is when the cavity starts forming.
When cavities develop, he says this is where the procedure of dental filling is recommended to repair this cavities.
“The right time to do this is as soon as the hole is found to protect the teeth. If the hole grows deeper, it affects the nerves where the pain will be too severe,” he says.
At this point, he notes that going for root canal treatment or removing the teeth becomes the only option.
A root canal is a treatment used to repair and save a tooth that is badly decayed or has become infected. During a root canal procedure, the nerve and pulp are removed and the inside of the tooth is cleaned and sealed.
Without treatment, the tissue surrounding the tooth becomes infected and abscesses may form.
Besides, Nkusi says it’s only a dentist that can detect whether one has a cavity that needs to be filled.
He says that this is why it’s important for people to always go for dental check-ups often, even if they are not experiencing any dental pain.
According to him, it’s through this that a dentist will help examine the surfaces of each tooth to find out if there is any problem, which needs a dental filling or other kinds of dental treatment depending on the extent of damage caused by decay.
WHY YOU NEED A DENTAL FILLING
Epimak Kayiranga, another dentist at CHUK, says a dental filling is very important to the state of one’s oral health.
He explains that tooth decay begins with bacteria that attach to teeth and form plaque, lingering in the mouth; these bacteria consume any leftover sugars and produce an acid, by-product that is capable of wearing away tooth enamel.
“As enamel wears away, a cavity develops, lowering the tooth’s defences and compromising its health. It is at this point that a dental filling can intervene and restore the tooth’s health,” he says.
Aside from this, he says, dental filling helps improve tooth functionality.
He says when one has dental decay or cavities; this has the potential to make chewing quite difficult and painful for them, but when the tooth is filled, such cases can’t happen again.
Again, cavities of all sizes and shapes require prompt dental filling.
He says if one has tooth decay that causes cavity formation, the affected portion of the tooth decay will be drilled out then filling applied.
The filling, he says, has the potential to last for more than 15 years, which is essential because it’s better than extracting a tooth, and at the same time, it keeps one away from developing bigger cavities.
“What is needed is awareness among the population, in most cases, what we see is that when patients come with cavities; even after informing them of the best options as dentists, they prefer to have their teeth extracted,” he says.
He notes that losing a tooth is not worth it, especially for young people, yet there are other safe and long lasting options that can help save one’s tooth.
Kayiranga adds that in some cases, a patient comes with tiny holes in one or several teeth, and the dental filling becomes essential in this kind of situation as well.
He says although these holes are not necessarily cavities and might not even cause any sort of discomfort, a dental filling is required to prevent complications that could come after.
“If such holes in the teeth are not filled timely, there is the potential for the accumulation of food particles and bacteria that will inevitably cause tooth decay, thus the reason why the dental filling is vital,” he says.
On the other hand, Nkusi says it’s not only the tooth with cavities that requires filling, but also cases where the tooth has been fractured, the procedure can also be applied.
He says the teeth can get fractured due to various reasons, including fallings, any other accidents, chewing on something hard, among other reasons.
Alternatively, Niyigaba says dental filling can as well used for people with discoloured teeth due to different reasons.
“To restore someone’s self-esteem and confidence, dentists can as well apply dental filling to teeth that have become discoloured for those people who wish to do so,” he says.
He says dental filling can as well be used after the gradual loss of a tooth structure.
He notes that nowadays, a dental filling is highly resistant to corrosion and when the filling is done, it protects one’s tooth for a longer period of time.
Taking care of your mouth, teeth and gums is essential as it helps you keep away from dental diseases that are complicated to treat. There is still a lot to be done when it comes to creating awareness to the public concerning oral health.
Gonzalue Niyigaba, Dentist
When the public is educated on the importance of good oral hygiene, it will be easy to pass on the good practices to their children. Dental problems can be avoided only if people are aware of the causes and what to do in case of a problem.
Joseph Uwiragiye, Head of the nutrition department, CHUK
Cleaning the child’s milk teeth is important and parents should start doing it as soon as a child’s tooth erupts. Before the eruption of the teeth, using a wet clean towel or a piece of cloth to clean the gums of the child after feeding is vital, and it keeps the child away from dental problems even in adulthood.
Christian Bahati, Nurse
Minding what to eat is also essential when it comes to keeping your teeth safe from cavities. One should avoid sweet stuff and other soft drinks like soda because they contribute to the development of cavities.
Immaculate Kiiza, Nurse