The Ultimate Guide on Tooth Fillings

tooth fillings

Did you visit your dentist to find you have a tooth cavity? If so your dentist would have recommended you get a tooth filling. 

When we do not take care of oral and dental care, it can lead to inflammation or infection in the oral cavity, cavities, gum diseases, and periodontitis.

This is a guide on Tooth Fillings. Keep reading to know more about the procedure and types of Tooth Fillings.

Let’s see what tooth cavities are at first and what causes them.

tooth fillings and cavity

Tooth Cavities

Tooth cavities are caused when there are excessive attacks of acid produced in the mouth, due to which tooth enamel is damaged and causes small opening or holes in the tooth. 

As a result of cavities, a white spot may appear which may become brown if not treated in time. 

There are 5 stages of tooth decay.

These stages are discussed below:

Stages of Tooth Decay

There are 5 stages of tooth decay and are as follows:

Stage 1-Initial demineralization:

This is the first stage when precautions are not taken i.e. we do not brush our teeth properly.

As a result, the outer layer, enamel wears out and a white spot appears. 

Stage 2- Enamel Decay:

When the white spot starts turning into brown or even darker color, it indicates that tooth enamel has been damaged and a hole is formed inside the tooth. 

Stage 3- Dentin Decay: 

Dentin is the second layer and if the enamel is not taken care of, the bacteria then attack the dentin.

The main symptom of dentin decay is the development of sensitivity when we eat or drink something hot or cold. 

Stage 4- Pulp Damage:

The pulp is the innermost part of the tooth can contains blood vessels and nerve endings that lead to the brain.

When the pulp is damaged it causes pain and irritation.

Stage 5- Abscess:

An abscess is the pocket of pus that is caused due to infection in the pulp. It causes pain, swelling of the gums, face or jaw, and swollen lymph nodes. 

Diagnosis of Tooth Decay

When you visit the dentist, he or she would ask you for the symptoms whether you’ve had pain, swelling, or sensitivity, and based on your symptoms you’re dentist would diagnose the cavity in your mouth.

The diagnosis is done either by:

  1. Physical examination of the mouth 
  2. X-ray is taken to show the cavities and decay and at what stage is the tooth decay. 

Treatment of Tooth Decay

Based on the stage of tooth decay, the dentist might prescribe what treatment would be carried out. The treatment can be done in one of the following ways.

  1. Tooth Filling
  2. Crowns
  3. Root Canal
  4. Tooth Extraction 

In this article, we will discuss Tooth Filling. 

As mentioned above, cavities are caused when there is a small opening or hole in the tooth. The main culprit is sugar intake and not maintaining oral hygiene. 

This causes severe pain, swelling in the gums, and sensitivity. 

tooth fillings on teeth

Tooth Fillings

The dentist recommends at least two visits in a year. This is for individuals who do not have any major dental problems. 

However, one might have to visit the dentist depending on the severity of the problem. 

During your visit, the dentist would use some instruments to check the tooth. In some cases, the level of damage is checked by taking an X-ray. 

The X-ray shows the level of damage caused by the cavity. The dentist examines not only the teeth but the gums and surrounding bones. 

If the damage to the tooth is in the initial stage as mentioned above, then your tooth requires a dental filling. However, if your tooth has been extremely damaged, then you’re dentist would recommend a root canal .

Types of Dental Fillings

These include:

  • Amalgam (silver colored)
  • Composite filling (tooth-colored)
  • Glass ionomer (tooth-colored)
  • Gold inlays and onlay (gold colored)
  • Porcelain fillings (tooth-colored)

The fillings mentioned above vary in strength and color.

The choice of the filling also depends on your budget, the filling’s durability, and preference. 

Amalgam Filling

These silver fillings are strong and used for filling cavities that are present in the molars and pre-molars.

These fillings are made of metallic components that is why they are long-lasting. In some cases, your dentist might use silver amalgam fillings that are strong and durable.


Before applying this filling, the tooth decay is removed and the dentist shapes the tooth to hold the filling in space.

If the tooth is badly broken, a stainless steel pin is placed to secure the filling. 

Composite Filling

 These fillings are not as strong as compared to amalgam fillings. 

They are made from composite materials, powdered glass quartz, silica, or other ceramic particles added to a resin base. 


After preparing the tooth, a bond is placed and the filling is placed. A light is shone to set it on the tooth. 

The dentist would apply a shade on the filling to match your teeth. 

Glass Ionomer Fillings

This type of filling is used for children who have not yet developed permanent teeth. These fillings are made of acrylic and glass. 

The dentist will remove the pulp that is decaying and place the filling in the tooth.

These fillings release fluoride to help protect the teeth. 


The application of this filling is fairly easy as it directly binds to the tooth after application. 

gold fillingsGold Inlays and Onlay:

An inlay is placed between the biting surfaces to the teeth while onlay covers a larger area of the tooth. 

Gold fillings are long-lasting and hard-wearing fillings. 


For the application of gold fillings, an impression of the prepared cavity is taken and sent to the laboratory. The technician makes the filling to make the inlay or onlay. 

Meanwhile, a temporary filling is placed in the cavity. The dentist will fix the filling using dental cement. 

Your dentist can use onlay or inlays on the front teeth as well.

Porcelain Inlays

Porcelain inlays are made by technicians and usually require you to visit the dentist twice before they can be used.

These filings are made of porcelain fillings that are matched to the color of your teeth, are long last, and hard-wearing. 


The inlay is applied to the tooth after shaping it so that the filling would fit normally.

A strong resin is applied to the tooth which bonds the tooth to the filling. 

Indirect Fillings

Indirect fillings are placed on teeth when not enough tooth structure remains to support a filling but the tooth is not severely damaged that a crown needs to be placed. 

Its application includes:

  1. The decay of the tooth or old filling is removed
  2. to make the filling, an impression is taken to record the shape of the tooth and the teeth around it. 
  3. for a while, a temporary filling is placed
  4. the dentist then checks for indirect restoration and then the filling is cemented to the tooth. 

This procedure is completed in two visits and is usually similar to composite or tooth-colored fillings. 

These filings are of two types: inlays and Onlays. These are more durable and last longer. 

Why Do We Need a Temporary Filling?

There are a few circumstances when temporary fillings are used. These are:

  • When we need more than one appointment, for instance before placing gold fillings 
  • When a root canal needs to be done
  • If the pulp has become irritated, then to settle down the tooth’s nerve, temporary  fillings are placed

tooth filling procedureThe procedure of Dental Fillings

The dentist usually informs the patient after the diagnosis has been made. The filling procedure consists of a few simple steps and is as follows:

  1. The teeth, gums, and skin surrounding your teeth are first numbed to avoid any pain or discomfort.
  2. Then the cavity is located either by physical examination or with the help of an X-ray
  3. Next, the tooth decay is drilled out and your dentist will remove the decaying pulp.
  4. The filling is placed using a bonding material 
  5. When the filling is in, your dentist will do a bite check to make sure the filling is on the same level as other teeth. 

The entire procedure takes a few minutes. 

How to Take Care of The Fillings?

After the filling has been placed, your dentist will let you go. A few things need to be kept in mind for taking care of the fillings.

There might be some pain or sensations after the procedure.

You need to brush your teeth twice regularly and floss once a day. 

Using fluoride toothpaste is also important as it helps to keep the enamel intact. 

It not only protects the filling from wearing out but also maintains overall health. 

Visit Your Doctor If:

You experience a severe toothache, this might mean that the tissue is damaged and a root canal may be required.

Consult your doctor as soon as possible. In some cases, gold inlays or onlay can expand or contract due to changing weather conditions .Consult your doctor if you experience severe pain.

While eating, keep in mind that you just had a filling on your tooth and it needs to be taken care of. 

As the filling needs time to set, therefore avoid any food that might be sticky because it may take out the filling. 


Some problems might occur with dental fillings. These are:

Pain and Sensitivity

This is fairly common and subsides with time. But if the pain and sensitivity become severe, then you should consult the dentist as soon as possible. 

Filling Allergies

Such allergies are rare. Before the application of amalgam fillings, do get checked if you have any allergy to any one of its components.

Hence, if you are allergic then your doctor will use another restorative material. 

Deteriorating Fillings

Constant eating and chewing cause the fillings to wear out.

You may not be able to identify it yourself but during your regular check-ups, the dentist would. 

In case the filling breaks down the bacteria causing decay can move down and develop additional decay.

If left untreated, it can lead to infected pulp and abscess. 

Thus, your dentists will replace the filling with a crown as less tooth structure remains after the decay. 

woman with dentist checkup Conclusion

Eating a healthy and proper diet is important not only for maintaining health but also for maintaining oral hygiene.

Eating too much sugar and sticky food, if not brushed properly can cause a tooth cavity. You should regularly visit your dentist to avoid any inconvenience. 

As mentioned above, there are different types of dental fillings. These depend upon the cost and durability of the filling. Moreover, it also depends on your choice of filling.

An important thing to keep in mind is that whether you have any allergy to the components of either of the filling material. For instance, some people might be allergic to silver or mercury found in amalgam fillings.

You need to take special care after the procedure, even though, the procedure is very simple. Pain and sensitivity are common issues that subside with time. 

In case of severe pain and sensitivity consult the doctor immediately. Regular checkups may identify the wearing out of tooth fillings and their replacement.

If you liked this article, read our dentistry articles about Invisalign, Braces and Dental Implants.

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