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Your First Filling? Here's What To Expect

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If you're a lucky adult who has managed to keep their teeth cavity free until recently, you might be a little anxious about your upcoming filling appointment. The prospect of having the dentist drill a hole in your tooth an inject some foreign material may sound daunting, but if you know just what to expect, you'll arrive at your appointment calm and ready to face the process.

When you sit down…

When you first sit down in the dental chair, your dentist will apply a topical numbing agent to your cheek. This may taste a little bit like cherry cough drops, but not too unpleasant. Your cheek will become a little tingly, so when your dentist injects a local anesthetic, you barely feel the pinch. Your dentist will likely make conversation with you throughout this process, so you pay more attention to him or her talking than the injection, which only takes a few seconds.

While you're waiting to be numb…

It will take the local anesthetic a few minutes to take effect. You'll slowly feel part of your lip and mouth become  numb. Your dentist may touch an area of your mouth and ask if you can feel it. When you're fully numb, it's time to start the drilling and filling process.

Once you're numb…

Your dentist will begin using a the drill to remove the decayed portion of your tooth. All you should feel is some vibration. While this can be annoying, it won't be painful. Your dentist or his assistant may periodically spray some water on the tooth and suck it up again with a suction instrument. This will just keep the area clean so your dentist can see clearly. When your dentist has removed most of the material with a finer drill, he or she will briefly use a coarser drill to roughen up the edges of the "hole" so that the filling material will adhere better. This will feel like a more intense vibration, but one again, it won't be painful.

After the drilling is done…

Depending on the location of the cavity, your dentist may or may not insert a few metal "molds" into your mouth. These are designed to keep the filling material in place. You won't be able to close your mouth with these in, but they'll only be in there briefly, so don't worry. Once the molds are placed, if needed, your dentist will use a syringe to insert the filling material into the hole. If a composite resin is being used to fill your tooth, he or she may then shine a special light on the material to set it.

The molds will then be removed from your mouth, and a special file will be used to smooth out the filling. Then, you're done! You can return home, and can expect the numbness to wear off in a few hours.