What is dental fillings?

Dental fillings: Overview

A filling is a material that your dentist uses to fill a cavity after the dentist removes any tooth decay. To fill a tooth, your dentist will numb the area, drill out the decay, and put in a filling. There are many types of fillings.

Dental filling (restoration)

A filling is a substance that dentists use to replace a decayed or broken portion of a tooth. Commonly used substances for fillings include metal, alloy, plastic, porcelain, or a combination of materials (composite).

Composite resins are made from plastic materials (glass and resin) and are usually similar to tooth color. They are often used on the front teeth where a natural appearance is important. Composite resins can sometimes also be used on the back teeth.

What are some types of dental fillings?

Fillings can be made from many types of material. Talk to your dentist about which type would be best for you.

  • Amalgam is the easiest material for a dentist to use. It's the fastest and least costly choice. Amalgam is a mixture of mercury, silver, and tin or other metals.
  • Composite resins are tooth-colored fillings. Composite resin is easier than gold for a dentist to work with. And it usually costs less than gold.
  • Ionomers are tooth-colored materials that dentists often use for small cavities or cavities between teeth. Some ionomers release small amounts of fluoride. This may help you if you often get cavities.
  • Gold is costly and is harder for your dentist to work with. This makes the procedure take longer and cost more.
  • Ceramics are costly tooth-colored fillings. They require special equipment and may require dental lab support. You may need several appointments.

How well do dental fillings work?

A filling repairs the tooth and stops tooth decay. Over a long period of time, you may need to replace a worn-out filling.

What are the risks of dental fillings?

There is almost no risk involved in having a cavity filled.

If you have certain heart problems, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics before a dental procedure. Some procedures can cause bacteria in the mouth to enter the bloodstream and cause infections in other parts of the body. The antibiotics lower your risk of getting an infection in your heart called endocarditis.

What can you expect as you recover from a dental filling?

After your dentist has filled the cavity, your lips and gums may stay numb for a few hours until the numbing medicine wears off. To avoid injuring your mouth, be careful not to chew on your numb lip or cheek.

Your filled tooth may be sensitive to heat and cold for days to weeks after you get the filling. Talk to your dentist about toothpastes that may help you with this discomfort. Tell your dentist if your teeth are too sensitive after you get a filling. This problem can usually be treated.

How is a dental filling done?

Your dentist will start by numbing your teeth, gums, tongue, and surrounding skin. First the dentist will put a substance that feels like jelly directly on the area. This starts the numbing process. Then the dentist will inject an anesthetic to complete the process. Some dentists will give you nitrous oxide gas (laughing gas) to reduce your pain and help you relax.

Some dentists use a small sheet of rubber on a metal frame (rubber dam) to target the decayed tooth. This can stop liquid and tooth chips from entering the mouth and throat.

Then your dentist will drill out all the decay and replace it with a filling.

Why are dental fillings done?

You need a filling when tooth decay has caused a hole (cavity) to form on a tooth surface. If you don't get a filling, the cavity will get worse. It may cause pain and then an abscess. This may lead to more severe problems, such as bone loss.

©2011-2024 Healthwise, Incorporated

The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.