A dental filling (tooth filling) procedure is done to restore form and function to a damaged tooth. It is most commonly used to treat cavities but can also be used to repair broken teeth or teeth which have worn down over time.
When tooth decay destroys part of a tooth, it could expose inner nerves, compromise the tooth’s structural integrity or become a site of continued infection. Even if the dentist removes the decay from inside the cavity, the hole itself would present a problem for the tooth. By filling in the hole, dentists restore full functionality to a damaged tooth.
Materials used for fillings include gold, porcelain, amalgam (an alloy of mercury, silver, copper, tin and sometimes zinc) and composite resin (tooth-coloured fillings). Tooth-coloured fillings have become increasingly popular in recent years. They are good alternatives to traditional metal fillings and are chosen for their strength, durability and natural-looking appearance.
A dental filling procedure follows this sequence:
- Decay removal from the affected tooth
- Dental cavity (tooth cavity) is cleaned and prepared for restoration
- Tooth restoration and shaping
- Bite check to ensure a comfortable and aligned bite
- Adjustment(s) if necessary
Most dental fillings can be done without local anaesthesia. For deep cavities or hypersensitive teeth, you may be given topical anaesthetic to make the treatment more comfortable.
After a dental filling procedure, you may sometimes experience sensitivity and slight discomfort but these symptoms should subside within a week. If there is continued discomfort, see your dentist for a review. Tooth fillings usually last for many years before needing replacement. However, if you clench or grind your teeth, you may need to have your tooth fillings replaced sooner.
A dental filling is a safe and common dental procedure to ensure that a minor dental problem is fixed before it escalates into a more serious one.