What is a dental filling?

A dental filling is a procedure used to fill a hole or cavity in a tooth. You may need a filling if you have tooth decay or if the tooth's structure is damaged due to injury or trauma. It is essential to repair a damaged tooth to prevent the need for more complex treatments such as root canal therapy or tooth removal.

A combination of factors such as mouth bacteria, sugary foods/drinks and poor oral hygiene can compromise the health of your teeth. Over time, these factors can weaken enamel, break down the tooth and cause a cavity. Once a cavity has formed, the tooth will continue to decay and become increasingly painful until a dentist can treat it.

Depending on the level of damage to the tooth, a dentist may recommend a tooth filling to fill in the cavity. Your dentist will repair the damage caused by the decay and prevent bacteria from attacking the cavity further.

If the decay is beyond repairable by a filling, your dentist may suggest a root canal [link to root canal page] to repair the tooth or tooth extraction to remove the tooth entirely. We will discuss different options to replace the tooth if required.

What types of dental fillings do you offer?

Composite resin dental fillings

Many dentists and patients prefer composite resin dental fillings as they are 'invisible', blending into the patient's teeth. Composite resin dental fillings also adhere to the tooth better than amalgam (mixed metal) fillings, bonding to the existing tooth. The filling is hardened in a few seconds using a special light placed into the mouth.

A composite filling may be preferred because it requires less drilling, preserving the maximum amount of tooth. Research has proven they are about 90% as strong as healthy, natural tooth material.

Ceramic dental fillings

While a composite resin filling is a direct restoration and can be completed in one sitting, a ceramic inlay is an indirect restoration requiring more than one visit to your dentist.

Ceramic inlays and composite resin fillings involve removing decay before the tooth cavity is filled in. In the case of a ceramic inlay, an impression is made of the cavity and sent off to our in-house dental lab, where a ceramic inlay is made to the exact size and shape of the tooth cavity. A ceramic inlay strengthens the tooth as the inlay is cemented into the tooth cavity.

Is a dental filling painful?

A tooth filling addresses the direct cause of your dental pain - decay. By removing the decayed material, cleaning your tooth out and protecting it against further exposure with tooth filling material, your dentist can help alleviate the source of your dental pain.

You may experience some discomfort or sensitivity after the procedure, but this will improve and resolve the pain experienced with tooth decay present.

What can I expect during the dental filling procedure?

In most cases, your dentist will inject the treatment area with a local anaesthetic. This will numb the area to make the procedure more comfortable. You will be awake for the duration of the treatment.

Your dentist will remove any decay with a drill and replace the decayed area with a filling. After the filling process, your mouth will remain numb for at least a couple of hours and wear off gradually.

What can I expect after a dental filling?

When your anaesthetic starts to wear off, you might feel tingling or pins and needles in your soft tissue as you regain sensation. Your dentist will recommend you avoid eating and drinking for a few hours. Chewing on the opposite side of your filling would be best when you eat again.

Once the anaesthetic has worn off completely, you may feel some tenderness and sensitivity around the tooth that was filled. Most patients find any discomfort mild and manageable. You may wish to take some over-the-counter pain or anti-inflammatory medication.

What are the alternatives to a dental filling?

Sometimes, a dentist may use a crown rather than a filling. A crown fits over the tooth to protect its structure and may be used if not enough tooth is left to support a filling.

How can I avoid dental fillings in the future?

Cavities are caused by dental decay, resulting from accumulated bacteria that can be controlled with twice-daily brushing and flossing. Your dental therapist can remove any plaque that cannot be removed through your at-home dental routine when you have a professional dental cleaning.

It is important that you visit your dentist every six months so that your dentist can inspect your mouth for any early signs of tooth decay. Large, deep cavities are especially painful and risk your dental health.