Sarnia Dental Fillings and Cavities FAQ

Today, we’re going to cover your questions about dental fillings and cavities such as: Do they hurt? How long do they take?

If you’ve been lucky enough to have never had a cavity — or your last filling was when you were a small child and you don’t remember much of the experience — you may not be sure what to expect when you stop by our dental office to have an area of tooth decay filled by one of our highly-skilled Sarnia dentists.

Fortunately, things have changed a lot when it comes to diagnosing and treating tooth decay. Throughout her years in practice, Dr. Karen Davis has implemented newer, less-invasive methods and materials that benefit both your smile’s function as well as its appearance.

But like any type of dental procedure, it’s common to feel nervous if you aren’t sure about what’s going to happen. That’s why we’ve gathered some of the most common dental filling and cavities FAQs for you to review before your treatment.

Do All Cavities Hurt?


No. This is probably one of the biggest misconceptions about tooth decay. In reality, pain should never be the determining factor when it comes to deciding when to treat a cavity or other type of dental infection. Rather, pain is just one of many symptoms that can alert you to something being wrong with your tooth.

How Do I Know if I Have a Cavity?

Symptoms of cavities often include things such as:

  • Sensitivity to certain foods or drinks (especially something sweet)
  • An odd feeling when biting or chewing
  • Visible discoloration
  • Floss catching or shredding when you clean between your teeth

Ultimately, the only way to know for certain whether you have a cavity or not is to see a dentist. During your exam, Dr. Karen Davis will evaluate your symptoms and visually screen for signs of tooth demineralization. In some cases, a digital X-ray may be needed to see into the tooth and determine if decay has broken through the outer layer of enamel, requiring a filling.

What Are Dental Fillings Made From?

Older dental fillings used to be made from a metal alloy, and thus silver in appearance. Modern dental filling materials are free of amalgam and mercury, making them safer and better for our patients. The composite blend also allows us to select a color that closely matches the shade of the enamel next to it, minimizing its appearance.

White composite fillings naturally bond to tooth structure, making them less invasive to place. They tend to be smaller than traditional metal restorations.

Does It Hurt to Have a Filling Placed?

Most people are afraid of having a filling placed because they think it will hurt. In reality, most of the discomfort is associated with the infection that occurs before the decay is repaired. Because your tooth nerve is sensitive and can abscess easily, we prefer to be proactive and treat decay in its most early stage, sometimes not requiring any anesthetic at all! We take appropriate steps to minimize any potential discomfort during your treatment.

Will My New Filling Be Visible When I Smile?

Dr. Karen Davis selects a white filling colour that is as close to the shade of your natural teeth as possible. The goal is to have a restoration that’s invisible when you smile or talk around friends. In most cases, only a trained dental professional will be able to spot the differences (when looking inside of your mouth.)

How Long Does the Appointment Take to Have Fillings Done?

The length of your filling appointment will depend on how large the cavity is, and how many teeth are being treated. During your exam and diagnosis, we will inform you the estimated length of the procedure.

My Tooth Feels Funny after My Visit. Is Something Wrong?

Changing the shape of a tooth — even at extremely minor levels — can alter the way your bite feels (especially when you are frozen). After your new restorations are placed (and you are not frozen anymore) you should take note of the following: If it feels like you’re closing on one side of the mouth before the other, or it feels “like a pebble in your shoe”, please call the office to have your filling adjusted! It will not adjust itself, and may cause bruising or sensitivity if left too high.

How Long Do Dental Fillings Last?

There is no rule of thumb as to how long a filling will last. When well cared for, it’s common for restorations to last well over a decade. However, situations such as teeth grinding, trauma, diet choices, or poor oral hygiene can cause wear or recurrent decay to develop around the filling, allowing it to fail. And like any dental work, it will ultimately wear out over time and use, requiring replacement at a later date.

Why Do I Need a Crown? Can’t I Just Have a Filling Instead?

Perhaps you have a broken-down filling or recurrent decay and the current recommendation now is a full coverage crown. Functionally, the material used in fillings can only support and replace a certain amount of tooth structure. Composite restorations are ideal when removing decay and replacing small amounts of tooth structure. They are not strong enough to rebuild or strengthen teeth. A crown is essentially placed on a weak tooth and encompasses it like a porcelain helmet for strength.

Will Cavities Come Back after Having a Tooth Filled?

One of the most common misconceptions about cavities and fillings is that the cavity is gone forever after you have the tooth treated. Not so. Decay is a bacterial infection. As long as an area goes uncleaned (poor homecare) and there is a diet that promotes an acidic environment, decay can re-occur around areas that have already been filled.

How Has Technology Changed the Way Tooth Decay is Treated?

Modern dental therapy has improved tremendously over the past two decades. Now that digital radiography and early diagnostic tools are accessible, we can treat cavities sooner (sometimes reversing demineralization before decay even breaks through the tooth) and use less invasive materials that are healthier for your teeth.

If you suspect that you’re getting a cavity or already know that an older filling needs to be replaced, Dr. Karen Davis Dentistry in Sarnia, ON is happy to assist you. Contact us today to request an appointment.

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