A “sedative filling” is a temporary filling used to repair a decayed, chipped, cracked, or otherwise damaged tooth, and used by dentists in cases where:
A) Extensive restoration to a tooth, or several teeth, is required, but cannot be completed in a single session, or
B) A cavity has progressed very near, or to, the pulp (nerve).
The main purpose of a sedative filling is to assist in soothing a tooth nerve aggravated by decay or dental exploration, and to allow the tooth to begin repairing itself. When used in instances where the number of cavities exceeds the time a dentist has to complete the necessary repairs, a sedative filling is often called a “temporary filling.” They are, however one in the same, and more accurately described as “sedative.”
Unlike a traditional amalgam or composite resin fillings made of metal or acrylic, sedative fillings are mainly composed of a mix of oil of clove (eugenol) and zinc oxide. The natural properties of these two materials allow them to effectively “sedate” the tooth, (or, allow it to calm down) and begin its own natural healing process. The first step in the process of using a sedative filling, as with all other fillings, is to excavate the tooth of any decayed or weakened areas. Then, the filling will be mixed into a waterproof paste and layered into the excavated area. Once hardened, the oil of clove will help soothe the tooth from pain, and the zinc oxide will aid in disinfecting the tooth.
A sedative filling is commonly left within a tooth for at least one month, but some dentists - and some teeth - may require more time. Regardless of the allotment of time needed, once sufficient, your dentist will be looking for signs the tooth is experiencing less, or no, inflammation, and has begun laying down an additional layer of dentin. If these conditions are favorable, and you are asymptomatic, a root canal may be averted, and instead, a crown might be placed on the tooth. If, on the other hand, the pulp is determined to be too badly damaged, and not “live” or “vital,” root canal treatment, or extraction might be necessary.