Did you know that over 90% of Australians have experienced tooth decay? Fillings, the most effective way to treat cavities, are one of Australia’s most common dental procedures.

A dental filling is a fast, simple procedure that can improve your oral health and prevent future complications. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about fillings, the different types of dental fillings, and commonly asked questions about fillings.


What Is A Dental Filling?

Dentists check for tooth decay at general checkups, making regular dental exams an important part of good oral health.

A dental filling involves cleaning the area of decay and ‘filling’ it to restore the biting surface and prevent further damage to the tooth.


What Are the Different Types of Fillings?

Here are the most common types of dental fillings:

Composite Fillings

Composite fillings are a popular option due to their tooth-coloured, natural appearance. Composite fillings are made of resin, a durable, malleable material that can be moulded to fit the area of decay

Once placed, the material is hardened with blue light, resulting in a natural-looking, long-lasting option.

Porcelain and Ceramics

Porcelain fillings are used to make onlays and inlays in situations where a large amount of tooth structure must be replaced. Onlays and inlays retain more of the natural tooth structure than a crown and help strengthen a weakened tooth.

Although they are stronger than composite fillings, porcelain fillings are less common. They are typically only used when the majority of a tooth’s structure is damaged. Porcelain fillings can be matched to surrounding teeth for a natural appearance.

Amalgam Fillings

Amalgam fillings have been used for over a century but are less common now. Amalgam fillings consist of a mix of metal alloys that begin soft and quickly harden once placed.

Amalgam fillings are affordable and durable but have become less popular as a result of their silver colour.

Dental fillings that are made of silver amalgam have been around the longest.


What Happens During a Filling Procedure?

If your dentist detects decay during a check-up, you will likely be asked to make another appointment for a tooth filling.

Here is a quick overview of what happens during a dental filling procedure:

  • First, your dentist will numb the surrounding area with a local anaesthetic
  • A high-speed tool will be used to remove any decay from the tooth, taking care to remove as little as necessary to maintain as much of the natural tooth as possible
  • The cavity is then disinfected, dried, and filled with the selected material (typically composite resin)
  • Once the material hardens, the tooth is polished and shaped to look like a natural tooth and feel natural to bite on
  • After a few hours, the numbness will wear off
  • The entire procedure generally takes less than an hour
  • At a follow-up appointment, your dentist will examine the filling to make sure the bite feels natural and all the decay was successfully removed


What Causes Tooth Decay?

The mouth is teeming with bacteria. When you consume sugary or acidic foods and beverages, the bacteria can form a film on the teeth known as plaque.

If plaque builds up, it can produce acids that break down tooth enamel and create holes (cavities).


Tips to Prevent Tooth Decay

A good oral hygiene routine can significantly reduce your risk of tooth decay. Here are the best tips for preventing cavities:

  • See your dentist regularly for checkups
  • Avoid or limit sugary food and drinks, especially too close to bedtime or in between meals
  • Limit your intake of foods that cling to the teeth or aren’t easily rinsed away (i.e. dried fruit, chips, hard candy, mints, etc.)
  • Brush your teeth using fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day
  • Floss at least once a day
  • Avoid smoking or tobacco products
  • Limit your alcohol intake (alcohol can erode tooth enamel)
  • Eat tooth-healthy foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables

Have regular dental check-ups and cleanings to avoid dental emergencies.


Can You Completely Prevent Tooth Decay?

While a good oral hygiene routine can greatly reduce your chance of experiencing tooth decay, some decay is inevitable.

For instance, some individuals are predisposed to demineralisation, a process where teeth lose minerals and become softer and more prone to decay.

Regular dental exams are vital to keeping your teeth healthy and recognising early signs of tooth decay.


What Are the Signs of Tooth Decay?

While a dental checkup is the only way to confirm tooth decay, you may notice the first signs of tooth decay on your own.

Here are some possible signs you have tooth decay:

  • A toothache
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold foods and beverages
  • Pain when biting or chewing
  • Brown, white, grey, or black staining on your tooth
  • Bad breath
  • An unpleasant taste in your mouth


Are Dental Fillings Only Used for Tooth Decay?

Dental fillings can also be used to repair teeth that have been cracked, worn down, or broken due to injury, nail biting, or tooth-grinding.

A composite filling is considered one of the main types of dental filling material.


Does a Dental Filling Hurt?

Thanks to advancements in the dentistry world, getting a dental filling is virtually pain-free. Your dentist will numb the area with local anaesthesia to keep you as comfortable as possible for the duration of the procedure.

After treatment, you can take over-the-counter pain medicine if desired. You may also wish to stick to softer foods for a day after your treatment.


What Happens If Tooth Decay Is Ignored?

It is best to detect and treat tooth decay as early as possible. If tooth decay is left untreated, it can spread to the centre of the tooth (the pulp) and expose the nerves. This speeds up the rate of decay and can lead to severe pain. These cases require a root canal treatment to be fixed.

In some cases, tooth decay can go on so long that the tooth is beyond repair and needs to be removed and replaced.


Do You Have Questions About Dental Fillings or Concerns About Tooth Decay?

If you are worried you have a cavity or want to schedule an appointment to check for tooth decay, please contact our team.

Our skilled team will evaluate the health of your teeth and gums, detect any decay, and discuss the best treatment options if needed. We’re here to keep your smile looking and feeling as healthy as possible.