An Overview of How Tooth Fillings Work

An Overview of How Tooth Fillings Work

April 1, 2021

Our teeth are susceptible to cavities due to the damage caused by tooth decay. Tooth decay takes place when foods rich in carbohydrates or sugar are left on the teeth. After some time, bacteria in the mouth turn the food into acids which combine with saliva to form plaque. Plaque sticks to the teeth and dissolves your enamel. This creates holes in the tooth called cavities. Cavities cause pain, especially when they are large. The dentist will suggest dental fillings as one of the several ways of treating the cavity.

Tooth fillings are used to repair/restore teeth that are cracked, worn down, or broken due to other reasons like; trauma, teeth grinding, or gum disease.

Types of Fillings

Fillings come in different materials. Your dentist will help you chose the perfect filling for you based on the size of the cavity, its location, and the amount of money you want to spend.

    1. Amalgam (Silver Colored)

Amalgam dental fillings are composed of silver, mercury, tin, and copper. Although a small percentage of mercury is present in amalgam fillings, it is not poisonous. This is due to its changed chemical nature once it is combined with other materials in the filling.

Amalgam fillings are strong and therefore used to fill up cavities in molars that do the most chewing. Silver amalgam fillings are easily set into the patient’s tooth and can be used to chew even hard foods after 24 hours.

Advantages of amalgam fillings

      • They last longer than composite fillings. They last from 10 to 15 years.
      • Their strength enables them to withstand chewing forces.
      • They are not as expensive as composite fillings.

Disadvantages of amalgam fillings

      • Their silver color does not match the color of the patient’s natural teeth.
    1. Composite Resin dental fillings (Tooth-Colored)

Composite fillings are made from powdered silica, glass quartz, or ceramic particles, which are added to a resin base. Composite fillings are bonded to the remaining part of the tooth chemically using electronic light waves. These fillings are used to fill small or medium-sized cavities in the canines or premolars. They are suitable for teeth that do not do a lot of hard chewing.

Advantages of composite dental fillings:

      • Their color makes them aesthetically pleasing.
      • Provide more support to the filled tooth as they bond to it.
      • They are used to restore chipped, worn out, or broken teeth due to their versatility.

Disadvantages of composite fillings:

      • They last for about five years.
      • They chip easily.
      • Are expensive.
    1. Glass Ionomer (Tooth-Colored)

They contain a special glass material and acrylic. Glass ionomer filling is suitable for filling cavities located beneath the gum line or in young children’s teeth.

Advantages of glass ionomer fillings:

      • The fillings release fluoride, which protects the tooth from decay.
      • Are tooth-colored.


      • They last for five years or less.
      • Can chip or break easily.
    1. Gold Inlays and Onlays (Gold Colored)

Gold fillings are considered the best type of dental fillings. Their color is pleasing, especially to the young. They take at least two visits to the dentist to set.


      • Strong
      • Lasts from
    1. Porcelain fillings (Tooth-Colored)

Ceramic fillings consist mostly of porcelain. They are made in a laboratory and can be used as inlays or onlays. They are easily set with the help of a blue wavelength light used by the dentist.

How Tooth Fillings Work

At Confident Smile Dentistry, the dentist will use anesthesia on the area of the tooth to be filled. This makes the patient relax and prevents pain during the treatment. The decayed part of your tooth is drilled out, and the cavity space is cleaned professionally to prevent further decay. A liner made of composite-resin or glass ionomer is put first to protect the nerves of the tooth.

Tooth-colored fillings are placed in layers, each being hardened with a special light by the dentist. The dentist finishes by shaping the material into the desired shape and polishes it. For patients who require indirect fillings, more time is required to make the filling in the laboratory from an impression of the patient’s tooth. The dentist places a temporary filling in the cavity as you wait for the permanent one. After the filling is properly set, the dentist will give you instructions for care of the filling to maximize its duration.

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