What is a dental filling?

Health & Fitness

  • Author Jane Scaplen
  • Published September 13, 2023
  • Word count 763

Patient education is the first step in helping people improve their oral health. Fillings are a common procedure to treat dental decay and it is good to know what they are and what the treatment is like.

Dental fillings are a common dental procedure aimed at restoring a tooth damaged by decay or injury. In this article, we will look into the process, the materials used, and what to expect during and after the procedure. By the end, you'll have a clearer picture of this essential dental treatment.

The Need for Dental Fillings

Before we dive into the procedure itself, it's crucial to understand why dental fillings are necessary. Dental decay, often referred to as cavities or caries, is a prevalent dental issue. When plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, builds up on your teeth, it produces acids that can erode the enamel, leading to cavities. If left untreated, these cavities can progress and cause pain, infection, and even tooth loss.

Dental fillings play a vital role in addressing cavities by restoring the damaged tooth to its normal function and appearance. They help prevent further decay and discomfort.

The Dental Filling Procedure

Preparation: Before the actual filling, your dentist will start by numbing the area around the affected tooth using a local anesthetic. This ensures you won't feel any pain during the procedure. Once the area is numb, your dentist will remove the decayed portion of the tooth using specialized dental instruments.

The Filling Material: There are different types of materials that can be used for dental fillings, each with its own advantages. The most common options include amalgam (silver-colored fillings) and composite resin (tooth-colored fillings). Your dentist will discuss the best choice for your specific case based on factors like the location of the tooth and your aesthetic preferences.

Filling Placement: After the decayed portion is removed, the dentist will clean and disinfect the cavity to ensure no bacteria are left behind. The chosen filling material is then placed in layers and carefully shaped to restore the natural contours of the tooth. A special curing light may be used to harden the filling material in the case of composite resin.

Final Adjustments: Once the filling is in place, your dentist will make any necessary adjustments to ensure your bite feels natural and comfortable. This step is crucial for the long-term success of the filling.

Polishing: The final step involves polishing the filling to make it smooth and blend seamlessly with your natural tooth. This not only enhances its appearance but also reduces the risk of staining and plaque buildup.

What It Feels Like During the Procedure

During the filling procedure, you should not experience any pain, thanks to the local anesthesia. However, you might feel some pressure and vibrations as the decayed part of the tooth is removed and the filling material is placed. It's essential to communicate with your dentist if you feel any discomfort so that they can make necessary adjustments to ensure your comfort.

After the Procedure

After getting a dental filling, it's common to experience some mild sensations or discomfort. This typically includes:

Sensitivity: You may experience increased sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures for a few days after the procedure. This is normal and usually subsides.

Discomfort: Some mild soreness or discomfort around the treated tooth is normal. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help alleviate this.

Avoiding Certain Foods: It's advisable to avoid extremely hot, cold, or hard foods for a little while after the procedure to minimize sensitivity.

Oral Hygiene: Maintaining good oral hygiene is crucial. Brush and floss regularly, and follow any specific instructions provided by your dentist.

Long-Term Benefits of Dental Fillings

Dental fillings are a reliable and effective way to treat cavities and preserve your oral health. Some long-term benefits include:

Preventing Decay Progression: Fillings halt the progression of decay, preventing more extensive and expensive dental treatments in the future.

Restoring Function: Fillings restore the function of your tooth, allowing you to chew and speak without discomfort.

Preserving Natural Appearance: Tooth-colored fillings blend seamlessly with your natural teeth, maintaining an aesthetically pleasing smile.


In conclusion, getting a dental filling is a common and straightforward procedure aimed at restoring teeth affected by decay. It is a vital step in preserving your oral health and preventing more extensive dental issues down the road. If you ever need a dental filling, rest assured that the process is relatively painless, and the benefits are long-lasting. Regular dental check-ups and good oral hygiene practices can help detect and address cavities early, reducing the need for extensive dental work.

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