Tooth decay - besides gum disease - is the most frequent chronic disease in humans. Tooth decay appears on the hard surface of plaque-covered teeth, and is caused by cariogenic microorganisms.
Caries can form on any tooth surface, but characteristically appears on the face or smooth sides of, or in the gaps between teeth. The process is irreversible, and can lead to the complete destruction of the tooth in 1.5-2 years, and finally to the loss of the tooth. To stop this irreversible process, to expose and remove the decayed parts and to reconstruct the tooth, putting in a filling or an inlay is the proper treatment.
The essentials of dental fillings
In dentistry filling is the process during which the integrity of a damaged tooth is restored by placing different materials in the tooth. Fillings are usually needed as the result of tooth decay or some kind of trauma. However, in the case of too large missing parts a filling is not enough to repair the structure of the tooth, therefore other ways of tooth restoration are required.
The first step is anaesthetisation. As in most cases the decay has already reached the dentin that contains sensory nerves, local anaesthetisation is important. Then different drills are used to expose the decayed area, remove the infected tissue and shape the cavity. The cavity is wiped clean of saliva and blood, and is kept dry with isolation, using cotton wads. Different devices (wedges, thin plastic sheets, clamps) might also be necessary for the restoration of appropriate shape and function. Nowadays only tooth-coloured filling materials are used, which form aesthetic, mechanically resistant fillings. These filling materials are placed in the shaped, cleaned and prepared (with acid and bonding agent) cavity while still soft, and they harden when special wavelength light is shone on them (photo-polymerisation). Using photo-polymerised composite filling materials, the hardened filling can be immediately shaped; as a final step its height is adjusted and its surface is polished. The patient may eat as soon as the anaesthetic wears off.