What actually happens when you have a filling?

Fillings are perhaps the most widely understood dental treatment – but what exactly does the treatment entail?

When a colleague, friend or family member heads off to the dentist and tells you they are having a filling there is no further need for explanation. Sadly all too many of us have been there having our own dental cavities patched up with a filling.

But that is probably as far as most people’s knowledge stretches – and of course that fillings can be silver or white.

Fillings play an important part in protecting teeth in the long term – and allowing people to keep their own teeth. When a cavity appears in a tooth, caused by plaque breaking down the tooth’s protective enamel, to prevent the problem worsening and protect the tooth a dentist will ‘fill’ the hole.

What are fillings made from?

There are two main types of fillings used by dentists: amalgam and composite. An amalgam filling is generally referred to as a mercury or silver fillings, although they actually contain mercury, silver, tin and copper.

Amalgam fillings are hard-wearing and work well on back teeth, however their colouring makes them noticeable and they are generally avoided for dental repairs at the front of the mouth.

Composite fillings are often referred to as ‘white’ fillings owing to the fact that they are coloured white to make a more natural blend with teeth.

Made of a plastic resin mix these can be closely matched to the colour of the teeth and, as such, are less noticeable and ideal for more visible parts of the mouth. They are, however, less durable and may need to be replaced within 10 years.

How is a cavity filled?

First things first – to make patients comfortable during the procedure a dentist will numb the area to be worked on using local anaesthetic.

The dentist will then clear out the decayed part of the tooth using a dental drill, before smoothing the area ready to accommodate the filling. A suction machine is also used at the same time to remove water generated by the drill – as well as any fragments that are removed from the tooth.

The dentist will then fill the hole with whichever filling material is being used. In the case of composite fillings a bright light is shone on to the material to harden and strengthen it.

Your dentist will then check how well your filling fits with the rest of your teeth by asking you to bite down on a piece of carbon paper. If necessary a dental drill will be used to improve the shape of the tooth.

If you are worried you have a cavity and may need a filling get in touch with Bhandal Dental Surgery.