A Step-By-Step Guide to Tooth Fillings

Mirror in person’s mouth looking at bottom row of teeth

If you’ve ever had a cavity, you’ve most likely have gotten a filling. Fillings are pretty straightforward from a dental perspective, but most people don’t really know the ins and outs of this procedure. We want to help our patients – past, present, and future – alleviate any negative feelings they may have surrounding this procedure. And to do that, we wanted to give you some insight into fillings, straight from the dentist’s mouth. If you’ve ever wondered what goes on with your fillings from beginning to end, you’re in luck! Simply keep reading to learn all about cavities and fillings.

A Step-By-Step Guide to a Tooth Filling

What is a Cavity?

A cavity occurs when a part of a tooth begins to decay. Teeth begin to decay or breakdown when plaque builds up on the teeth. Plaque is comprised mostly of harmful bacteria, so when it adheres to a tooth, that bacteria will gradually wear away at the enamel and eventually result in a tiny hole that will gradually get bigger.

This can, of course, be prevented by proper home care and regular dental checkups, but we’ll go into that a little bit later.

Types of Fillings

While amalgam and composite are the most common types of fillings, there are a variety of materials that fillings can be made out of.

  • Amalgam Fillings: Amalgam is made up of several metallic elements, and has been used for over a century because of its strength and durability. It’s especially ideal for filling cavities located in the molars towards the back of the mouth because these teeth are the most active. Additionally, amalgam one of the more affordable cavity-filling materials. 
  • Composite Fillings: Composites, or filled resins, are fillings made up of a combination of glass or quartz filler. Composites are widely popular because they can be made to match the shade of a patient’s tooth. This treatment is quite durable and is ideal for small-mid-sized cavities in places where a moderate amount of chewing occurs.
  • Ceramic Fillings: Porcelain ceramic fillings are the color of teeth and are less likely to show stains, but they can be rather expensive.
  • Metal Fillings: Like ceramic fillings, metal fillings can be pretty expensive depending on which metal you get. For example, gold fillings can be as much as 10 times more expensive than amalgam fillings. That being said, metal fillings are incredibly durable and can last as long as 10-15 years before needing to be replaced.
  • Glass Ionomer: This solution blends acrylic and glass to create a filling that releases fluoride to protect the teeth. This filler is not as durable as other options, however, and would need to be replaced in as little as 5 years.

What to Expect When You’re Getting a Cavity Filled

Like we said before, getting a filling is pretty straightforward. Once you get to your dentist’s office, you can expect to be there for about an hour. Your dental hygienist with take you back into the exam room where the procedure will be performed. You won’t have to go through another cleaning, but x-rays will likely be taken of your teeth.

Your dentist will then come into the room, explain everything that they will be doing and talk to you about any immediate next steps. They will then numb the teeth, gums, and skin surrounding your cavity to avoid you feeling any pain or discomfort throughout the procedure. Lastly, they will locate the cavity, drill out the decay in the tooth, and replace it with a filling.

The entire procedure takes only a few minutes and after your dentist is done, you can leave and go about your day. There aren’t any significant risks associated with getting a cavity, but, just in case, be sure to keep your dentist’s contact information close by if you have any questions or concerns.

How to Take Care of Your Fillings

After receiving your filling, you may feel some slight sensitivity or discomfort at the site, but that will subside quickly. The best way to take care of your fillings is to brush your teeth twice a day, floss once a day, and visit your dentist twice a year. It’s important to keep up with this simple, yet impactful regiment to protect not only your new filling but to also maintain your overall tooth and gum health. 

Do you have a cavity? Contact All Smiles Care!

If you think you have a cavity or just need to find a new dentist, give the All Smiles Care team a call! We’re standing by to answer any questions or schedule an appointment!

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About the author

A practicing dentist since 1982, Dr. Gary Imm, provides advanced cosmetic dentistry, including smile makeovers, sedation, implant and TMJ services. He is committed to progressive, extraordinary care for his guests. All Smiles Dental Care trains at least 300 hours each year at such prestigious centers as the Las Vegas Institute of Advanced Dentistry. (LVI)

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