What is a filling?


A filling is a material that your dentist uses to fill a cavity after the tooth decay has been removed.


To fill a tooth, I will:


* Numb your teeth, gums, tongue, and surrounding skin. I will first put a jelly substance directly on the area to start the numbing process and then inject an anesthetic to complete it. Sometimes we will give you nitrous oxide gas (laughing gas) to reduce your pain and help you relax.

* Sometimes we use a small sheet of rubber on a metal frame (rubber dam) to target the decayed tooth and to stop liquid and tooth chips from entering your mouth and throat.

* Drill out all the decay and replace it with a filling.

Fillings can be made from many types of material. Talk to your dentist about which type would be best for you.


* Amalgam is the easiest material for a dentist to use. It is the fastest and least costly choice. Amalgam is a mixture of mercury, silver, tin, or other metals. I do not use this material anymore due to patient preference and because it is expensive and difficult to expose of.

* Composite resins are tooth-colored fillings. This process is sometimes referred to as "bonding" if it is on a front tooth. This is standard nowadays for the cosmetic dentist. It is the most esthetic(cosmetic) material and the newer materials have longevity comparable to the amalgam silver fillings. Composite resin is easier than gold for a dentist to work with and generally is less expensive than gold.

* Ceramics are costly tooth-colored fillings. They require special equipment and may require dental lab support. You may need several appointments. These are used in much larger fillings where the tooth is in between needing a filling or a crown.


What To Expect After Treatment

After I filled the cavity, your lips and gums may remain numb for a few hours until the numbing medicine wears off. Avoid chewing on your numb lip or cheek to avoid injuring your mouth.


Why It Is Done

You need a filling when tooth decay has caused a hole (cavity) to form on a tooth surface. If you don't get a filling, the cavity will get worse and lead to more severe problems, such as bone loss.


How Well It Works

A filling repairs the tooth and stops tooth decay. Over a long period of time, you may need to replace a worn-out filling.

Your filled tooth may be sensitive to heat and cold for days to weeks after you get the filling. Talk to your dentist about toothpastes that may help you with this discomfort. Tell your dentist if your teeth are too sensitive after you get a filling, because you can usually treat this problem.



There is almost no risk involved in having a cavity filled.

Some dental work can cause bacteria in the mouth to enter the bloodstream. These bacteria can cause infections in other parts of the body. People who have difficulty fighting infections may need to take antibiotics before and after dental surgery. Such people include those who:


* Have heart valve problems, such as endocarditis.
* Were born with heart defects.
* Have an impaired immune system.
* Have liver disease (cirrhosis.
* Have artificial joints, such as a hip that has been replaced.


What To Think About

It is important to start treatment before tooth decay becomes worse. More severe decay may cause pain and tooth loss and may require a costly crown, a root canal, or tooth removal (extraction).

Some dentists now use a laser system to remove tooth decay and prepare the tooth for filling. The laser is quiet, does not vibrate like a drill, and is usually painless, so medicines to deaden pain often are not needed. Laser treatment is a relatively new choice for dental treatment. Two dental laser systems have been cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These systems are under review by the American Dental Association. I do not use this type of system at this time due to it being a relatively new technology but the current research shows much promise in this innovation. Depending on the size, I can use air abrasion, which is a drill-less instrument to remove the cavity before filling. This is preferred as it is less noisy and more comfortable but only used when the filling is relatively small.