What is a dental filling?

Posted on: 26 July 2023


A dental filling is used to repair a tooth in someone's mouth when the structure of the tooth has become damaged by what is known as tooth decay. Tooth decay is technically a disease, although it is normally diet-related and occurs over some time.

An individual's diet, particularly in children, plays a big part in whether or not someone has good oral hygiene. A poor diet, which often includes a lot of sugary drinks, will over time wear down the structure of the tooth to a point where it needs repairing.

General dentistry

Dentists generally recommend having a dental examination either once or twice a year. Such an examination is normally fairly quick and can spot any problems in someone's teeth and gums before they get really serious.

Some people follow this advice, others avoid dentists completely until they are in such pain that they have no option but to see one.

The advantage of such a visit is that the dentist can spot early signs of tooth decay, which normally start as a small white or dark spot on the tooth.

Early signs of tooth decay can be managed much more efficiently before the tooth becomes too damaged and a hole or cavity appears in it. Dental examinations can prevent the need for a filling or minimise the amount of filling that is needed.

What happens during the dental filling process?

If a dentist decides that a filling is needed, they might be able to do the procedure at the same time as part of a dental examination, or they may schedule a separate appointment.

During the procedure, the dentist will first remove any part of the tooth that has suffered decay and needs to be replaced.

That area will then be cleaned and then filled up with a particular type of filling that will make the structure of the tooth stable again and prevent any further tooth decay.

Types of dental filling

There are several different types of filling material that can be used, but the two most common types are what are known as amalgam fillings and composite or white fillings,

Traditionally amalgam fillings were normally used because they tended to be cheaper than composite fillings, but they do contain elements of mercury, which some people feel uncomfortable with.

Government advice is that amalgam fillings are safe because whilst high levels of mercury can be harmful to anyone's health, especially children, the level of mercury that is contained in an amalgam filling is so low as to pose no health risk.

Dental fillings on the whole should not be particularly painful, although people's fear of them being so can often exacerbate the process.

A dentist will quite often offer reassurance in different ways that the procedure should be relatively painless and will normally offer a local anaesthetic to numb the area whilst the procedure is taking place.

The numbness will normally wear off after a couple of hours, and normal post-operative advice is simply to avoid hot or cold drinks for an hour or so and just be careful with what foods are eaten for a few hours after that.

For more information on getting a dental filling, contact a dentist near you today.