Dental fillings are used to restore the tooth back to its original shape and function.
What is a filling?
A dental filling repairs the damage caused by tooth decay or fracture. It restores the natural appearance of a decayed or previously filled tooth. Dental fillings today are tooth-coloured, which blend very well to tooth enamel and are able to bond to the remaining tooth structure.
Types of fillings
- Composite Fillings
- Amalgam Fillings
- Porcelain Fillings
- Fissure Seals
Composite fillings are the most popular fillings today. They are natural-looking and made from composite resin. Composite fillings begin soft and they are hand-shaped during the filling process. A blue light is then used to cure the composite to harden it. Composite fillings are very durable and bond well to tooth enamel.
Amalgam fillings, or more commonly known as silver fillings, were the most popular fillings many years ago. However they have fallen out of favour in recent years. Amalgam fillings are a mix of metal alloys, can contain traces of mercury and are dark in colour, which has been viewed unfavourably. Many people tend to replace these silver fillings with tooth-coloured fillings.
Porcelain fillings are used to restore heavily-filled teeth or when a large amount of tooth structure has been lost. They are stronger and more durable than composite white fillings. They are tooth-coloured and also bond to tooth structure. This option is viable for teeth with more than 60% tooth structure loss.
Sometimes our molar teeth have deep pits and fissures making it hard for the bristles of our toothbrush to clean, resulting in a breeding ground for bacteria to cause decay or cavities. Fissure seals are dental sealants used to fill the pits and fissures to act as a barrier against plaque, bacteria, and food particles.
What happens in a filling procedure?
Prior any filling procedure, your dentist will talk to you about your options to determine which filling type would be best suited and how to plan for them.
At your visit, local anaesthetic will be administered in the area to numb the tooth and surrounding structures. The decay will then be removed usually using a dental drill. Once the tooth is sound and strong tooth structure remains, the cavity is disinfected and dried before filling material is placed. The dentist will shape and cure the filling to harden it before checking your bite and ensuring it is comfortable.
After the filling procedure
It is advised not to eat or drink for 2–3 hours after a filling procedure due to the local anaesthetic. Once the local anaesthetic has worn off, you may experience some sensitivity in the area for a few days. For some people, it can take a couple of weeks for the filling to settle down.
If you experience any pain or if the filling does not feel right, please see your dentist as soon as possible.
How long does a filling last?
Depending on which type of filling, fillings can last up to 12 years. Fillings are placed under constant stress and movement from eating or even grinding, and this can cause fillings to wear and tear away faster. When a filling is no longer in good condition, it can result in further decay, cracks or fractures. Therefore, it is important to visit your dentist regularly for oral hygiene maintenance to help extend the life of your fillings.