A filling restores a tooth that has been damaged by either decay or breakage back to its original shape. When you get a filling, the decayed or damaged tooth material is removed, the affected area is cleaned, and then the cleaned out cavity is filled with a filling material.

A filling prevents further decay by closing off areas that bacteria may become present. A variety of materials can be used for fillings, such as gold, silver, porcelain, or most commonly a composite resin, which is the color of teeth.

Which Filling is Best?

None of the filling options are best for everyone. It depends on the extent of the repair, the patient’s allergies to certain materials, the location of the filling, and the cost.

Gold Fillings

These are made to order specifically for the patient’s tooth in a lab, and then cemented into the tooth. This material can last over twenty years, and is well tolerated by gum tissues. Because of this, many consider gold to be the optimal filling material, however, it is also the most expensive.

Silver Fillings

These are resistant to wear and less expensive than gold fillings. However, they are dark and more noticeable than other fillings and are not typically used in visible areas.

Composite Resins

These are matched to the color of your teeth and are used where the teeth need to look natural. The ingredients for this filling are mixed before filling in the cavity, where the composite then hardens to stay in place. Composites can easily chip or come out over time, so they are not the best material for big fillings. They also have the ability to become stained, and typically only last between three and 10 years.

Porcelain Fillings

These fillings are called inlays or onlays. They are created in a lab and bonded to the tooth. They do not stain like composite resins do, and they can be matched to the color of the tooth. This restoration typically covers the majority of the tooth. However, porcelain fillings are generally around the same price of gold fillings.

If there is a large amount of decay or fracture on the tooth, a tooth filling may not be enough to fix the issue, and a crown may be recommended. If decay has reached the nerve, a root canal or pulp carving may also be necessary.

The Process

When getting a filling, the decay is removed first and the affected area is cleaned. The clean area is then filled with the chosen material. An injection is often used before this process starts to numb the area of the mouth where the cavity will be drilled out. This helps to ease the pain while the dentist performs the work on the tooth. The entire process takes about 20 minutes.

When to get a Filling

Only a dentist is able to detect whether a cavity is present that should be filled. These affected areas of the mouth are seen with a small mirror during a dental check up when the surfaces of the teeth are being examined.

Anything that looks like it could be decay or damage is closely checked and possibly X-rayed to asses the damage. The chosen treatment will depend on the extent of the decay.

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