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The Dangers Associated with Large Fillings

Posted on 1/17/2017 by Dr. Frank Sallustio
A woman receiving a dental filling.
Tooth decay occurs because of bacteria in the mouth. As they feed off leftover food particles in your mouth, they produce acids. The acids eat away at the enamel (the hard, protective surface) of your teeth.

When enough of the enamel has been worn away, cavities form, which can create new places for bacteria to hide, and removing that bacteria becomes impossible without the help of your dentist.

Cavities need to be addressed, cleaned, and closed. One of the most common ways of sealing cavities is using fillings. While fillings work well for small cavities, large fillings can pose some issues.

What are Fillings?

A dental filling is a material - usually an amalgam or composite resin - that is placed into the cavity and dried to seal out the possibility of bacteria entering. This also stops further decay. Fillings are done in a single visit, the decay drilled out, and the spaced cleaned. An acidic gel creates a rough surface on your tooth, which gives the material something to adhere to. The material is packed into the cavity and dried.

Large Fillings Weaken the Tooth

If too much of the tooth has been lost to decay, the structure becomes weak. And needing to drill out decay or trim away part of the tooth weakens it further. There is little for the filling to adhere to, which compromises the integrity of the tooth. The filling is more likely to fail, which can create a situation where bacteria can sneak through and cause new decay.

Large Fillings Can Create a Wedge

A large filling can create a wedge in your tooth. If clench your teeth, grind them, or chew on something hard - candy, ice, your fingernails - the pressure from the action forces the filling to crack your tooth or even split it completely apart.

Changes Shape
Particularly with amalgam fillings, food or beverages that are too hot or too cold can cause your filling to expand and contract. With a large filling, the expansion could put pressure on the tooth and damage it further, as well as let bacteria in. Contraction leaves the original cavity susceptible to bacteria sneaking past the filling material and into the tooth.

If you have a significant amount of tooth decay, having a large filling could be potentially dangerous. Fortunately, other options, such as onlays and crowns, are available that can not only protect your tooth, but strengthen it as well. Contact our office today.

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Frank Sallustio, DDS
Diplomate, American Board of Prosthodontics
13802 West Camino Del Sol, Suite 102
Sun City West, AZ 85375-4486
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