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What Are Dental Fillings?

From the time we are children, we are taught about the importance of keeping our teeth in the best possible condition for as long as we can.

From our first days of visiting the dentist, we are shown the techniques of maintaining good oral health, how to brush our teeth, how to floss effectively and how to avoid damaging them.

However, life is unpredictable, and even if we are extremely diligent at caring for our teeth, dental issues can and will occur with the passing of time and unavoidable lifestyle factors.

One of the most common dental concerns that can occur anytime from childhood through to later adulthood is the appearance of a cavity. In fact, they are most commonly found in children.

With that being said, let’s have a look at what causes cavities, how teeth fillings correct them, how to avoid their onset, and how modern-day dental fillings are now a straightforward and pain-free procedure.


dental fillings

What is a cavity and what causes one?

As we explained earlier, a cavity is one of the most common dental concerns that compels people to visit their dentist.

By the time the pain propels someone to take action, this is usually a firm indicator that a cavity is well and truly damaging the tooth structure and earlier intervention could have been key to avoiding it to begin with.

Teeth are primarily made up of enamel, which is a hard layer of protective coating, and in essence, a cavity is a hollow in the composition of the tooth, caused by decay and softening of this enamel. The tooth, or teeth, break down over time due to this weakened enamel, resulting in pain in the affected area and trouble with eating or chewing.

If left untreated, cavities can grow in size, cause extreme pain, and ultimately, in some cases, destroy the entire tooth – which can lead to further, often costly, dental treatments.

So, what causes a cavity? In general, a poor diet consisting of sugary and starchy foods is one of the primary reasons dental experts point to in the creation of cavities. These foods are renowned for clinging to teeth and between them, leading to a buildup of bacteria that begins the enamel breakdown process.

Not having regular dental check-ups, smoking, not brushing your teeth and flossing effectively, low fluoride intake, untreated gum disease or receding gums are all also prime causes of cavities.

The method to fill a cavity is called a dental filling and is a straightforward procedure practised for centuries in the dental industry.

What Exactly is a Filling?

A filling is a dental treatment that fills in the pit a cavity has left in a tooth, therefore restoring the shape and overall health of the tooth. It is not only a corrective measure, to fix the existing problem, but a preventative one.

Dental fillings halt the further growth of a cavity in a tooth or teeth and alleviate the accompanying pain the hole in the enamel has caused.

Fillings are a procedure most dentists and dental technicians deal with on a daily basis, and being vigilant with regular dental check-ups can prevent the onset of cavities, and the accompanying cost of correcting them – as well as saving the patient a lot of pain!

The Various Types of Fillings

It may surprise you to learn that the earliest fillings were used by dentists in the early 1800s.

These early amalgam (silver) fillings were comprised of high levels of mercury, which had serious health effects on those who were unfortunate enough to have their cavities filled with one.

Since the early days of tooth fillings, dental technology has, thankfully, come a long way.

Amalgam, or silver, fillings are still commonly used, but without the addition of harmful levels of mercury, and are mostly made up of silver, copper and tin.

Composite fillings, composed of acrylic resin, are one of the most common filling options offered by dentists nowadays, as they are extremely durable and also blend in naturally with the natural colouring of your tooth, so they are virtually undetectable.

Glass ionomer fillings also blend in with your natural tooth colour and have the added benefit of a handy fluoride release which strengthens teeth over time.

Gold and porcelain fillings are a more expensive option due to the materials used, the need for them to be custom-made for the individual and also the length of time they last – generally upwards of twenty years.

If you have a cavity and require a tooth filling, your dentist will talk you through the best option tailored to you and your own dental needs.

Painfree Dental Fillings

The advancement of modern dentistry has, thankfully for those with cavities, come far enough for dental fillings to be a mostly pain-free, straight-forward procedure.

Gone are the days when the process of having a cavity filled was just as painful as the complaint itself.

These days, fillings take as little as fifteen minutes to complete, and local anaesthetic is utilised to ensure the area the dentist is working on is completely numb.

Thanks to the use of local anaesthesia, the associated drilling-out of existing tooth decay and the insertion of the subsequent filling has little to no impact on the patient and they can get back to their daily routine with very little disruption.

There is also generally little to no pain after the procedure, as the anaesthetic wears off and the mouth regains feeling again.

Pain-free dental fillings are one of the most common dental procedures to fill cavities. If you are suffering from the symptoms of a tooth cavity, be sure to make an immediate appointment with your dentist to ensure it doesn’t become a more complicated issue.

Your dentist will discuss with you the best course of action, and the best filling, for your own unique needs.