These are a popular form of dental treatment which is undertaken to treat tooth decay, damaged or cracked teeth.

Another type of filling is performed for purely cosmetic reasons. Find out more about these in the cosmetic fillings section.

In this section we discuss dental fillings from a restorative perspective: by this we mean that they are performed because there is a clear dental need rather than for aesthetic reasons.

Fillings are one of the most commonly performed dental procedures.

What is a dental filling?

This is a procedure which involves the placing of a filling material such as amalgam, porcelain or composite resin into a tooth to repair a cavity. This cavity is usually caused by tooth decay although it can occur as a result of a fracture.

This then prevents further spread of this decay and helps to preserve the tooth.

Once a tooth has become decayed it is important that it is treated sooner rather than later. If not then the enamel (hard outer coating) will deteriorate which reduces tooth sensitivity and leads to more serious problems such as an abscess.

If the decay is too far advanced then alternative forms of treatment are needed such as dental implants, crowns, a bridge or even root canal surgery.

Silver amalgam filling

Most people have the traditional silver amalgam filling which is made from a variety of materials such as copper, tin, silver and mercury. They may not win any awards for aesthetics but they are a strong and durable filling and have been used by dentists for many years. 

But many people are worried about the use of mercury which is considered toxic in human beings. As a result of that they have switched to other types of fillings such as all ceramic fillings.

There are arguments for and against amalgam fillings which are still ongoing.

The advantages of a dental filling

Many people dislike fillings but they perform an important function. They help to repair any cracks or a small fracture within the tooth as well as treating tooth decay. 

Plus there is the option to choose a direct white filling instead which has an attractive translucent colour that matches the rest of your teeth.

Fillings stop tooth decay from worsening as well as protecting the tooth. Plus it is better to undergo what is a relatively minor procedure rather than leave the tooth untreated. This means paying for a cheaper procedure rather than waiting and then end up paying more for an extensive course of treatment. 

Disadvantages of a dental filling

One disadvantage is that related to the concerns raised about mercury used within silver amalgam fillings. But weigh up both sides of the debate.

Other drawbacks include the risk of a fracture within the filling or falling out but this tends to be rare.

The dental filling procedure

The dentist will examine the tooth which shows signs of damage or decay. He or she will suggest a range of filling materials based upon your preferences, dental health and cost.

A dental filling is often known as a ‘direct filling’ which means that it can be completed in a single visit. An alternative to this is the indirect filling or inlays or onlays which are another type of filling. But these tend to be larger and require two visits to the dentist instead of one.

A dental filling is completed via a local anaesthetic. The dentist then repairs the tooth, e.g. removes any decay and the area around it before applying the filling material.

The tooth is then cleaned and the filling material inserted into the cavity. A further addition is a sealant which is applied to your tooth to prevent any further risk of tooth decay.

The dentist will advise you about the best way of caring for your filling and dental hygiene in general.

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