When you visit the dentist, it’s common to hear that you have a cavity that needs to be filled. Filling a cavity can be daunting, especially if you’re unsure how long it will take. The length of time it takes to fill a cavity depends on various factors, including the filling size, the number of surfaces of the filling, the number of fillings, the experience of the dentist, and any complications that may arise during the procedure. Typically it will take between 20-30 minutes to fill a single cavity. For those interested in more information for determining exactly how long it takes to fill their cavity, this article has been created to provide some helpful information.
What is a Cavity?
Before we dive into the determining factors of cavity filling time, let’s first define what a cavity is. A dental cavity is a hole in your tooth formed by bacteria that feed off the sugar in your mouth. The byproduct of the breakdown of sugar is the creation of acid, which can wear through the hard outer surface of your tooth (enamel) and form tooth decay. If left untreated, tooth decay can grow in size and eventually reach the tooth nerve. If it does reach the nerve, you will require a root canal treatment, which is much more expensive and takes many more visits. This is why treating small cavities with a dental filling as soon as possible is important because it will save you time and money.
How Long Does it Take to Fill A Cavity?
The amount of time it takes to fill a cavity can vary from person to person, but typically take the following amount of time:
- One cavity filling: Approximately 20-30 minutes
- Two cavity fillings: Approximately 30-45 minutes
- Three cavity fillings: Approximately 45-60 minutes
In some cases, the procedure may be completed in as little as 15 minutes if no complications arise during the process. Other times it can take as long as a couple of hours. Some factors that can affect the amount of time it takes to fill a cavity include:
Size of the Cavity
One of the most significant factors that affect the time it takes to fill a cavity is the size of the filling. Many people don’t realize that what is seen on the tooth’s surface isn’t necessarily indicative of the size of a cavity. Some cavities can extend down into the deeper layers of your tooth, sometimes into your jaw. This is what makes looking at cavities on an X-Ray so important.
In general, the larger the cavity, the more time it will take to fill. This is because more decay needs to be removed, and more filling material needs to be put back in.
Number and Type of Surfaces Affected
Another factor that can affect the time it takes to fill a cavity is the number of surfaces of the filling. A cavity that involves multiple teeth surfaces will require more equipment and more time to fill. For example, a cavity that involves two surfaces may take longer to fill than a cavity that only involves one surface.
Some surfaces are also more difficult to fill than others. For example, cavities between teeth require a dentist to drill through healthy teeth and apply a special band (called a matrix band) to ensure that filling material doesn’t stick two teeth together. This step adds more time to the procedure. In contrast, a cavity right in front of your tooth is relatively easy to fill because the dentist doesn’t have to worry about making sure they don’t stick two teeth together, and the cavity is easily accessible.
If the Cavity Near the Gumline
In general, cavities that are underneath the gumline are unsavable. This is because the filling material is incompatible with your gums and will cause irritation and inflammation. However, if cavities are before the gumline or just barely under it, a dentist may be able to fill it. This process will take longer because bleeding is possible during this procedure. When doing a filling, the tooth must be dry; otherwise, the filling material will not stick. Blood isn’t conducive to a dry surface, so the dentist has to take extra steps and precautions to ensure the area is completely dry before filling the cavity.
Experience of the Dentist
As with all things, people become more efficient with practice. This is why the dentist’s experience is also a factor that can affect how long it takes to fill a cavity. An experienced dentist can complete the procedure in less time than an inexperienced one since they’ll be more familiar with their routine and have had more practice filling cavities. In contrast, a dental student can take a couple of hours to complete their first filling!
For those interested, all dentists register their experience and qualifications online with their local governing body. This includes when they graduated.
Complications can also arise during the cavity-filling procedure, adding additional time. For example, if the decay is close to the nerve, it may take longer to remove all the decay. Additionally, if it’s difficult to numb the patient, the procedure may take longer.
Warning: Fast Doesn’t Always Mean Proper
Sometimes, a dentist may be able to complete the cavity filling in a very short amount of time. However, it’s important to remember that just because something is done quickly doesn’t mean it was done properly. Time spent double-checking and ensuring all decay has been removed is essential for any filling. Similarly, ensuring a patient has a proper bite after a filling, that they don’t feel sharp edges, and that the filling looks good is also essential.
Therefore, it is vital not to rush the dentist when they are filling a cavity, as doing so can negatively affect the outcome of your procedure. Everyone wants teeth that last as long as possible so you don’t have to go to the dentist again. That means giving the dentist time to make sure their filling is the best it can be.
Overall, treating small cavities as soon as possible is important to save time and money in the long run. If you’re unsure how long a cavity filling procedure will take, speak to your dentist. They can provide a more accurate estimate based on your specific needs. Remember, the length of time it takes to fill a cavity can vary depending on several factors, so it’s essential to be patient and allow your dentist to work safely and effectively.
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No two mouths are the same, and each oral situation is unique. As such, it isn’t possible to give comprehensive advice or diagnose oral conditions based on articles alone. The best way to ensure you’re getting the best dental care possible is to visit a dentist in person for an examination and consultation.