A Complete Guide to Dental Fillings: What You Need to Know

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Understanding Dental Fillings


Dental fillings play a pivotal role in contemporary dental care. They are a routine treatment used to repair damage caused by tooth decay. They restore the tooth’s function and appearance and prevent further decay by sealing off spaces where bacteria can enter.

This guide will unravel dental fillings’ complexity and offer valuable insights for new and existing patients. We will examine various fillings and discuss why they are used. We will also talk about how long they typically last and how costs compare. Additionally, we will emphasise the importance of regular dental check-ups.

Types of Dental Fillings

Dental fillings involve drilling out the damaged tooth and sterilising the cavity. The tooth is then filled with a hard material to seal it and protect it from further decay. When the damage is not too bad, we can sometimes treat the decay with Heal-Ozone gas. This sterilises the tooth and often reverses the decay without drilling.

Dentists will always try to avoid an extraction and save the natural tooth if possible. If the dentist decides that a filling is suitable, there are some choices available:

Traditional Metal Fillings

Metal fillings, called Amalgam fillings, are strong and durable. They are good for filling cavities in back teeth that endure a lot of chewing pressure. These are made up of a mixture of metals such as silver, mercury, tin, and copper. Their noticeable silver colour, however, might not be preferred for fillings in visible areas.

Gold Fillings

Gold fillings are acknowledged for their durability and longevity, often lasting over 20 years. Although their high cost and distinct appearance might not appeal to everyone, they are considered the gold standard for some. This is due to their wear resistance and minimal reaction to oral tissues.

White Fillings

At O’Neill Dental Care, we use white-filling materials that match the colour of your natural teeth. There are two types of white dental fillings available:

Composite Fillings

Composite fillings are made from plastic and glass particles, giving them a look and feel similar to real teeth. They are popular because of their appearance. They are often used for front teeth or visible parts of the tooth.

While not quite as durable as amalgam or gold fillings, they are preferred for those prioritising appearance. Composite material technology continues to improve their strength and durability, making them a viable option for many patients. Treatment normally takes 30 minutes.

Ceramic Fillings

Ceramic fillings, usually made of porcelain, are prized for their strong aesthetic match with natural tooth colour. They resist staining better than composite fillings and are quite durable. However, the cost is higher or similar to gold fillings.

Treatment requires two visits. The tooth is prepared and digitally scanned during the first visit to produce a perfect filling. You will be provided with a temporary filling until the next appointment. Once the ceramic filling is ready, you’ll return to the dental practice for a second visit. During this appointment, the temporary filling is removed, and the dentist checks the fit of the new ceramic filling. Adjustments are made as necessary to ensure a perfect fit and comfortable bite. The ceramic filling is then bonded to the tooth using a special adhesive.

Purpose and Suitability

The filling used depends on factors like where the cavity is, patient sensitivities, how it looks, and cost. Silver Amalgam fillings are strong and inexpensive, making them ideal for back teeth. Composite or ceramic fillings look more natural and are often used for front teeth. Composite fillings are now stronger and more attractive than metal fillings, thanks to material technology advances. They can also be used in molars.

Pain and Dental Fillings

Fillings are a pain-free treatment. The area or individual tooth is numbed with anaesthetic. At O’Neill Dental Care, we use the Wand (no needles) to numb the tooth. This is a computerised and painless method of delivering the anaesthetic to the correct location.  

Afterwards, you may experience a little pain or discomfort. Pain level and duration differ based on filling size, location, and individual pain tolerance.

Most post-filling pain and sensitivity gradually improve within a few days or weeks. However, if the pain persists or worsens, it’s important to contact your dentist. They can check if the filling is shaped correctly and if there are any other problems that need to be fixed.

Avoid extreme temperatures and sugary foods and drinks. This will help reduce sensitivity and pain.

Durability and Cost Analysis

The lifespan of a dental filling largely depends on the material used and the wear it is subjected to. Silver and gold fillings last longer than composite and ceramic fillings, which may need to be replaced more often. The cost varies with the choice of material, the size of the filling, and the dentist’s fees. Amalgam fillings are generally the most affordable option.

Related Dental Treatments

Dental sealants and root canals are treatments related to fillings. Sealants are simple preventative measures ideal for molars and premolars to keep cavities at bay. They are particularly popular and recommended for children and teenagers.

Root canals are necessary when decay reaches the tooth’s pulp. They require the removal of nerve and pulp before sealing the tooth, which is sometimes followed by a crown for protection.

Materials and Possible Reactions

While safe for most people, some may have an allergic reaction or tooth sensitivity, especially to metals in amalgam fillings. Talk to your dentist about any concerns. Alternatives are always available for those with specific concerns.

The Importance of Regular Dental Checkups

Regular dental checkups are important for keeping your teeth healthy. They help find and treat problems early, which can prevent the need for costly and complicated treatments later on. They also offer an opportunity to assess the condition of existing fillings and replace them if necessary.


Signs You Might Need a Filling:

Persistent toothache, sensitivity to hot or cold, visible holes or dark spots and pain when biting down are common indicators.

Choosing the Right Type of Filling:

Considering factors like the tooth’s position, decay severity, cosmetic preferences, and financial constraints. Your dentist can recommend the most suitable option.

Replacing Damaged Fillings:

Fillings can be replaced if they crack, wear down, or fall out. Regular checkups help identify the need for replacements.

Caring for Fillings:

Good oral hygiene practices—brushing twice daily, flossing daily, and regular dental checkups—are crucial. Avoiding hard foods and not using teeth as tools can also prolong the life of your fillings.

Risks Associated with Fillings:

While generally safe, potential allergies or sensitivities to materials, especially metals, exist. Discuss any concerns with your dentist.

Frequency of Dental Checkups:

It’s recommended to visit the dentist every six months for a checkup and cleaning. Your dentist might suggest a different schedule based on your oral health.


Dental fillings are integral to maintaining oral health. They effectively treat decay and prevent further damage. A thorough understanding of filling types, costs, and care empowers patients to make informed decisions about their dental health. 

Remember, the cornerstone of a healthy mouth is regular dental checkups and prompt treatment of issues.

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