A filling is a material that your dentist uses
to fill a
cavity after he or she removes any
To fill a tooth, your
- Numb your teeth, gums, tongue, and surrounding
skin. Your dentist will first put a substance that feels like jelly directly on
the area to start the numbing process, and then inject an
anesthetic to complete it. Many dentists will give you
nitrous oxide gas (laughing gas) to reduce your pain and help you
- Sometimes use a small sheet of rubber on a metal frame
(rubber dam) to target the decayed tooth and to stop liquid and tooth chips
from entering your mouth and throat.
- Drill out all the decay and
replace it with a filling.
Fillings can be made from many types of material. Talk to
your dentist about which type would be best for you.
- Amalgam is the easiest material for a dentist
to use. It is the fastest and least costly choice. Amalgam is a mixture of
mercury, silver, tin, or other metals.
- Composite resins are
tooth-colored fillings. Your dentist may use them on your front teeth, where
appearance is important. Composite resin is easier than gold for a dentist to
work with and usually is less expensive than gold.
- Ionomers are tooth-colored materials that dentists often use for
small cavities or cavities between teeth. Some ionomers release small amounts
of fluoride, which may help you if you often get cavities.
- Gold is costly and is harder for your dentist to work with. This
makes the procedure take longer and cost more.
- Ceramics are costly
tooth-colored fillings. They require special equipment and may require dental
lab support. You may need several appointments.
What To Expect After Treatment
After your dentist has filled the
cavity, your lips and gums may remain numb for a few hours until the numbing
medicine wears off. To avoid injuring your mouth, be careful not to chew on
your numb lip or cheek.
Why It Is Done
You need a filling when tooth decay
has caused a hole (cavity) to form on a tooth surface. If you don't get a
filling, the cavity will get worse and lead to more severe problems, such as
How Well It Works
A filling repairs the tooth and stops
tooth decay. Over a long period of time, you may need to replace a worn-out
Your filled tooth may be sensitive to heat and cold for
days to weeks after you get the filling. Talk to your dentist about toothpastes
that may help you with this discomfort. Tell your dentist if your teeth are too
sensitive after you get a filling, because you can usually treat this
There is almost no risk involved in having a
If you have certain heart problems, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics before a dental procedure. Some procedures can cause bacteria
in the mouth to enter the bloodstream and cause infections in other parts of
the body. The antibiotics lower your risk of getting an infection in your heart called endocarditis. For more information, see People Who Need Antibiotics to Prevent Endocarditis and Procedures That May Require Antibiotics to Prevent Endocarditis.
What To Think About
It is important to start treatment
before tooth decay becomes worse. More severe decay may cause pain and tooth
loss and may require a costly
root canal, or tooth removal (extraction).
Some dentists now use a
laser system to remove tooth decay and prepare the
tooth for filling. Laser treatment is a relatively new choice for dental
treatment and may not be available in your area.
Complete the special treatment information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this treatment.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Steven K. Patterson, BS, DDS, MPH - Dentistry|
|Last Revised||June 14, 2011|