Dental Fillings: What to Expect

Dental Fillings: What to Expect

October 10, 2018

Cavities are caused by bacteria in the mouth attacking the teeth enamel, creating small holes. To prevent further damage from occurring, the decay will have to be removed and replaced with a dental filling. Fillings can also be used to repair damage caused by teeth grinding or to replace part of a broken tooth.

When receiving a dental filling, you should expect to be at the dentist office for about an hour. During this time, your dentist will take x-rays, if needed, then numb the tooth and surrounding gums and skin to minimize discomfort during the procedure. The decay will be drilled out, and the filling will be placed. It will be hardened with a special light, then shaved down to fit with the rest of the teeth.

Your mouth will probably be numb for the next several hours. The tooth will be usable during this time, though you should be careful when chewing to avoid biting your cheek or tongue.

Types of fillings

Fillings can be made of a variety of materials. The type used will depend on factors such as cost, the location of the cavity, and your aesthetic preferences. The two most commonly-used types of fillings are amalgam and composite.

  • Amalgam: made of a combination of several metallic elements. They are strong and are therefore ideal for placement in the back teeth, such as the molars. They are the least expensive of cavity-filling materials, but can be highly visible in the mouth.
  • Composite: are a combination of glass or quartz filler. Sometimes referred to as composites or filled resins, this type of filling can be made to match the natural color of the teeth, which means that they are much less conspicuous. Composite fillings are fairly durable and are good for small-to-midsize cavities on teeth that perform moderate chewing.
  • Metals: gold and silver amalgam are the most common metals used for a filling. Gold fillings are considerably more expensive than silver amalgam, but they are also more durable, lasting as long as 10-15 years before they need replacing.
  • Ceramic: usually made of porcelain and is tooth-colored. It stains less easily than composites, but can cost nearly as much as a gold filling.
  • Glass ionomer: a blend of acrylic and glass. It releases fluoride to help protect and strengthen teeth, but is less durable than other materials.

Taking care of fillings

You may experience tooth sensitivity after having a filling placed. Products designed to protect sensitive teeth may help with this. Normal oral care habits (daily brushing and flossing) will be required after receiving fillings.

When to replace a filling

With proper care fillings can last for many years, but they can wear out over time. If you notice signs of wear, such as cracks or worn areas, see your dentist to have the filling examined and replaced as soon as possible. Failing to replace a damaged filling can result in a cracked tooth.

Other potential issues

A filling can pull away from the tooth on which it was placed, creating a small gap where bacteria can collect and cause additional tooth decay. If you notice a space in a treated tooth, visit your dentist as soon as possible to have it repaired. A treated tooth can also, in rare cases, develop additional decay. In this case, your dentist may choose to place a crown to repair the tooth rather than place a second filling.

A filling can also be damaged, broken, or fall out. Damage can occur if the tooth bites down or chews on something exceptionally hard. A tooth can also be damaged as a result of a mouth injury, such as while playing sports.