Tooth Fillings

Tooth filling procedure

Fillings are used to fill holes (cavities), usually as a result of decay or tooth wear. There are many types of filling, each suitable for different cavities.

Most people have a local anesthetic injection to completely numb the area while the filling is being done. The numbness can take several hours to wear off.

The decayed and weakened parts of the tooth are removed using small drills and the hole is washed. To protect the tiny nerves and blood vessels inside the tooth, very thin layers of under linings, such as resin, are painted inside the hole before the filling material is packed in. The filling will begin to harden during the first few minutes or, for some materials, a blue light is used to make it set within a few seconds. Sometimes temporary fillings are used where there may not be enough time to do the full treatment, for example during emergency appointments or after a root canal treatment.

Temporary fillings can last for quite a long time, but they are not very strong so you must always arrange to have a durable filling placed within a few weeks.

Type of fillings:

There are many types of fillings, for example: temporary tooth filling, root canal filling, tooth coloured filling (white filling), amalgam filling, and mercury filling.

Tooth coloured fillings:

Tooth coloured fillings can be chosen to match the colour of the teeth, making them a natural-looking alternative to amalgam fillings. Tooth coloured fillings are often used in teeth that show during smiling or talking. There are a few different types of tooth coloured filling materials. The most common are called composite and glass ionomer.

They are soft and can be moulded to look like the shape of a tooth before they are hardened, usually using a blue light. Tooth coloured filling materials stick to teeth, so they can be used to build up the edges of chipped or worn teeth. Composite shrinks very slightly under the blue light. This can pull on the tooth and may cause sensitivity. It can also produce a tiny gap between the filling and the tooth that may lead to further decay.

Tooth coloured fillings must be kept completely dry until they have set, so the dentist will take special precautions to keep saliva away from the area. This may include placing a sheet of rubber over the tooth (called a rubber dam).