Think you might need a filling? Fillings are very common and most people will need one at some stage in their lives. It’s important to take good care of your oral health to reduce the chance of needing a filling.
If you need a filling your dentist will first remove the caries, or decay, from inside your tooth and then fill the cavity with one of a wide range of filling materials. Depending on the damage to your tooth, dentists use several types of fillings. This is usually based on the material that your dentist uses to fill the cavity left by the decay.
Fillings help to restore your damaged teeth to their normal shape and function.
Depending on the damage to your tooth, dentists use several types of fillings. This is usually based on the material that your dentist uses to fill the cavity left by the decay. Some of the more common filling types include composite, amalgam and gold fillings. In many cases you’ll be able to choose which filling type you prefer.
Common signs you may need a filling include:
It’s important that you see a dentist regularly for routine check-ups because not all decay and problems that might need a filling have symptoms or pain. Most symptoms start silently in the early stages and if found early usually mean a simple, cost effective and less invasive treatment is all that’s needed. Prevention really is the key. That’s why it’s so important to visit a dentist regularly.
Your dentist will usually numb the decayed tooth using a local anaesthetic that’s injected into your gum and the area around the tooth. After that they will check that the area is numb and use a dental drill to remove the decay. After the tooth has been prepared they will place the filling. How they do this will depend on the type of filling material used.
The type of filling that your dentist will use to fill the cavity may depend on the decay damage to your tooth. Often you may be able to choose which filling type you prefer. Common filling types include amalgam, composite, ceramic and gold fillings. Glass ionomer cement fillings are less common. You can read more about the common filling types below.
Dental amalgam fillings have been used to fill teeth for over 150 years. Amalgam is what we know as traditional silver fillings. They are not actually made of silver but a combination of a few metals including silver, tin, copper and mercury.
They are a low-cost filling mostly used for large cavities in back molars because of their colour. An amalgam filling will darken over time but can last many years before it needs replacing, typically between 10 and 15 years.
Composite or synthetic white fillings are popular because of their natural appearance and strength. They typically last up to five years.
A composite filling will be matched to the colour of your teeth as closely as possible. They are almost impossible to detect and are an excellent replacement for stained, chipped or leaking fillings.
Gold fillings are very strong and durable and typically last 10 to 15 years and sometimes longer. Gold was the most popular filling material in the 1800s.
Some people prefer gold fillings because of its appearance, and it is sometimes seen as a status symbol.
Porcelain or ceramic fillings are sometimes known as onlays or inlays. They have a natural appearance and are matched to your tooth colour.
They are designed for use on back molars that are under strong chewing pressure. They can last up to 20 years or more due to their strength and wear resistance.
Glass ionomer is a tooth-coloured material that was originally used as a dental cement for gluing crowns onto teeth. It’s basically a flexible paste that can act as a sealant.
It’s the cheapest filling material but also the weakest. Because of this it’s mostly used as a temporary filling or as a foundation filling under composite white filling material. It’s also used on baby teeth and non-biting surfaces of teeth such as decay around the gum lines.
If your dentist gives you advice about daily dental care like teeth brushing techniques and how often you should floss, write it down. It takes time to build a new habit – some say 21 days or more. In the meantime, here’s a handy idea. Stick your note about your new dental care routine on your bathroom mirror as a daily reminder.
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