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A General Guide to Fillings and Crowns 

Fillings and crowns are common forms of dental work, with the majority of dental patients known to have either a filling or crown already in place, or expected to have one in their lifetime.

Even though having a filling/crown placed doesn’t normally require any emergency dental work to be undertaken and is a relatively straight-forward procedure, it is still important you understand the process and implications of fillings and crowns so you know how to look after the filled teeth and are equally able to spot the signs of something going wrong.

Things to know about fillings

A filling will be used to fill a cavity that has developed in your tooth, normally as a result of decay being present. The reason that cavities have to have fillings is because if left, the decay will eventually get worse, causing untold pain, development of more decay in other teeth, and possibly infection.

There are different materials that a filling can be constructed from, with the most traditional form being made from an amalgam of metals. However, because of modern dentistry practices, patients also have the choice of compound materials that are more natural looking.

Things to know about crowns 

As you may or may not know, crowns, just like fillings, are used to fill in a tooth, but they look and act different to the latter and are required to do a different job entirely. A crown is used more as a structural aid, and is required when a tooth’s structure has completely deteriorated.

Crowns, sometimes referred to as caps because of the job they do, are a solution to serious dental problems such as severe tooth decay.  Crowns help to seal the tooth so that further decay cannot set in whilst at the same time adding additional support to the tooth in question.

With regards the process, they are placed over the tooth to add an extra layer of support to the pearly white which, in turn, helps to keep it strong and provides a new bite surface. Crowns are strongly associated with root canal treatment, as they are normally used to seal and protect the tooth after the work has taken place. 

Problems can occur with fillings and crowns.

One of the most common problems that people face with crowns and fillings is losing them. Generally speaking, fillings and crowns are super strong and durable and are known to last a very long time. However, you must always remember that they are very much a restoration material and, as with any dental restoration, there will always be that chance that it will not be entirely successful or will not last as long as intended.

Eating, drinking and talking will all have an impact on the longevity of fillings and crowns and certain foods will also put particular pressure on them –  hard sticky sweets for example. Fillings tend to break and start to disintegrate, whilst crowns are more likely to come away from the tooth entirely but still be intact.

If you have ever lost a filling or a crown you will know that it is not painful, but it can be quite a surprise, and it can trigger a little bit of panic as you try not to swallow what has come loose in the mouth.

Because you won’t feel any immediate pain after you have lost a filling or crown, it can often be easy to put the lost material to the back of your mind until you have got time to make an appointment with the dentist. This is not advised. It is recommended that you make an appointment with your dentist as soon as you can to get the repair done. This is because, as soon as you start to eat or drink without the filling or crown in place, you will start to experience pain because food and other debris will start to gather in the cavity that is left open to the elements. A more serious reason to get the situation seen to immediately is with regards infection. If a tooth is left exposed and unsealed, infection and decay may set in, causing toothache and severe decay in other teeth.

What next?

With regards lost fillings, it should not be too much of a task for a dentist to re-apply a filling into the affected tooth, so you should be in and out of the practice relatively quickly. The dentist will check you over to make sure that that everything is okay with the rest of your teeth and will look to see that no decay is present in the affected tooth, as applying a filling over the tooth would just seal the decay in.  In some cases, the presence of decay is the reason for a filling failing so a dentist will examine the tooth carefully and check to see that the tooth is clear of such an issue. If there is some decay present, the dentist may need to drill the decay away to get the tooth back to the state it should be. After this the filling can then be placed and you can be on your way.

Crowns, just like fillings, can also be easily fixed if they have come away from the tooth. Because crowns tend to come away whole from the tooth, you may still have the crown in all its entirety and in this instance your dentist may just opt to re-cement it back onto the tooth. Before this can be done, however, the dentist will need to check for underlying decay to ensure that this was not the cause of the crown failing in the first place. If decay was present it could be the case that it made the crown ill-fitting, which caused it to gradually come away from the tooth and fall out. In this instance, the tooth will have to be cleansed and all evidence of dental decay and debris will have to be removed before a crown is put on, otherwise the same thing will happen again.

If a new crown is needed, it is known that preparation time can be a few weeks so you will have to be fitted with a temporary crown whilst you wait. This will ensure that no debris or potential infections can get into the tooth.

Once your new filling or crown is in place, you will be asked by your dentist to adhere to a few small rules so that your tooth and its new restoration have to time to set and settle down. You will be advised to avoid sweets and hard foods that may hamper the strengthening and setting of the materials placed, and you will also be told not to brush your teeth for twenty four hours to avoid the risk of disturbing the materials. After the twenty four hours is up you will be allowed to brush your teeth, but you should do this with caution and brush extremely carefully and gently.