Home > Dental Procedures > Fillings


By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 27 Jul 2010 | comments*Discuss

Fillings are one of the most common treatments performed by dentists. They are used to treat cavities in the teeth caused by decay and will also be used to restore broken or cracked teeth. Teeth that have become worn over time or have been damaged by constant grinding can also be restored by the use of fillings. Fillings have been performed in dentistry for over a century and the materials and procedures that are now used can leave your teeth looking natural and healthy; the latest material used in fillings can be indistinguishable from your own teeth.

Why Fillings are Needed

Tooth decay will cause holes in the tooth enamel; if this decay is left untreated it will progress further into the tooth, progress into the dental pulp and will cause abscesses. Once the dentist has found a cavity in your teeth, he will need to remove any underlying decay and then fill the cavity. You may have already had a filling in the past that has become cracked or worn down and this will need to be restored. Often people are unaware that their fillings are damaged, but pressure when chewing food can wear down or crack a filling; this will allow bacteria to enter the tooth and cause decay. Dental fillings only a have a certain lifespan, some can last for up to 15 years depending on the material used, and replacing or restoring fillings is a necessity to avoid tooth decay.

The Dental Filling Treatment

Once the dentist has ascertained that you are a candidate for a filling there are a few options available to you. The most common filling will be a direct filling using a dental amalgam. The filling procedure will usually be performed after a local anaesthetic that will numb the area to be treated. If you are particularly nervous or have a fear of injections you should ask your dentist if they offer some form of sedation dentistry as an alternative to the needle. The dentist will then use an instrument of his choice; this can be either a drill, laser or air abrasion tool that will be used to remove the decayed region of the tooth. After removing the decay, the dentist will then clear the cavity of any bacteria before applying the chosen filling. The final step is to clean and polish the filling.

Depending on the depth of the decay and the type of filling used, there may be more steps to the filling procedure. If the decay is close to the root then a special liner may be placed there to protect the nerve. Extra finishing work may be needed if you have chosen a tooth coloured filling, in which case layers of filling will be applied and a light will be used to harden each layer after application. The dentist will then have to shape the filling to the tooth and trim any excess followed by a final polish.

Types of Filling

There are various types of materials available to you if you need a filling, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Your dentist will help you decide which filling is right for you. The filling materials can range from gold to translucent ionomers. The two most popular fillings are amalgam and composite fillings.

Dental Amalgam

Once the most common filling, amalgam is rapidly taking second place to the more aesthetically pleasing white filling. Amalgam is made of various types of material such as silver, copper, mercury and tin and is extremely durable and hard wearing. Compared to other dental fillings, amalgam is inexpensive and so retains its popularity among dentists. Disadvantages are that amalgam fillings will not look natural and can be seen if placed near the front teeth. More drilling work may also be needed to the teeth in order to use this type of filling.

Composite Fillings

Composite fillings are becoming more popular with people who want natural looking teeth, white teeth. Made from a mixture of glass and quartz in resin, the composite filling requires less work in restructuring the teeth and can be bonded to the teeth, meaning less intrusive dental work. Composite fillings are also hard wearing, although not as strong as amalgam fillings, but they will look natural and compliment the adjoining teeth. The downside may be that this type of filling can cost up to twice the price of an amalgam and it will take longer to perform the treatment.

Caring for Fillings

As with any dental work, cosmetic or otherwise, a good daily dental routine is required in order to look after your fillings; brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and floss daily. Your tooth may feel sensitive to hot or cold for a few days after the filling, but this is quite normal. If the sensitivity does not subside within around three weeks then a dental appointment should be scheduled. Sensitivity or pain in newly filled teeth may be alleviated by using special desensitising toothpaste but if the pain is not alleviated then it may be a symptom of something more serious, and further filling work or a root canal may be required.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Zee
    Re: Ozone Dental Therapy
    Hi Since i had root canal done has caused me lot of doenside on my health evdn though i look after myself and diet. Recently i have had lump…
    15 February 2019
  • Sue
    Re: Ozone Dental Therapy
    Like Ann, I have also read the What Doctors Don't Tell You article on Ozone dental treatment and would like to find a dentist in the London…
    24 January 2019
  • Sha
    Re: Ozone Dental Therapy
    I live in Dorset and want to know the nearest dentist that will treat my receding gums with ozone treatment . A honest dentist as I’ve had…
    10 November 2018
  • Ann
    Re: Ozone Dental Therapy
    Do you know any dentists in London or outer London who use ozone to kill bacteria in teeth and gums please? 'What Doctors Don't Tell You' has…
    28 October 2018
  • nicola
    Re: Ozone Dental Therapy
    Hi I am looking for a dentist that uses ozone therapy in the south west pf England. Is there a list anywhere?
    12 April 2018
  • Dri
    Re: Ozone Dental Therapy
    I extracted the tooth to 1 month ago and it is not healing before the ectration I took 3 boxes of amoxiline and after the extraction two more…
    15 November 2017
  • DiU
    Re: Effect of Dentures on Digestion
    @Bunty - you never think about the problems that dentures can cause. You've completely put me off having any even after…
    30 October 2017
  • Bunty
    Re: Effect of Dentures on Digestion
    Hi, I have had partial dentures for 18 months and can't cope, at all, with them! They fall out, bouncing about and I can't eat…
    28 October 2017
  • Kat
    Re: Ozone Dental Therapy
    I have a 'pocket' in my low jaw bone below a crowned molar. The tooth is starting to be sore and I am having early signs of infection. My…
    20 July 2017
  • Ches
    Re: Effect of Dentures on Digestion
    I had dental transplants done 2 yrs ago.....lower only....I have had to have them refitted twice with new sockets.....at the…
    3 April 2017