Composite Dental Fillings

Dental fillings repair holes in your teeth.  If you are experiencing a toothache, you might need a filling. Holes in your teeth are caused by tooth decay. Whilst they are common, they can be prevented by practising good oral hygiene, brushing your teeth regularly, flossing, and using a mouthwash between meals.

Why are tooth fillings used?

Dental fillings are used to fill in the space left once the dentist removes the decayed area around the tooth. The filling material, once set, restores the tooth structure which would otherwise be vulnerable to cracking, breaking and further decay. It is an extremely common dental treatment and is not an indication of bad dental hygiene or a high sugar diet - it can happen to anyone, however, regular visits to the dentist and good oral hygiene practices can help to prevent them from developing.

How do I know if I need a filling?

Your dentist is the only one who will be able to tell you if you need a filling. There are a few telltale signs, however, that may suggest an appointment and filling is necessary. You may start feeling sensitivity to hot or cold drinks or especially sugary drinks. You may experience toothache or tooth pain. You may even see darker spots on your tooth when you look in the mirror. If you start experiencing any of these symptoms it’s always best to seek professional advice.

What are fillings made of?

There are a number of different types of fillings made out of a range of materials. In earlier times, the most common type of filling was amalgam fillings because of their strength and cost-effectiveness. Amalgam are silver fillings which are occasionally used today, however, white fillings or tooth-coloured fillings are much more common today.

Tooth-coloured composite fillings are much more popular because of the way they blend naturally in the mouth and can be smaller too. Another option is gold fillings which are strong, don’t corrode and have an aesthetic appeal to some. These, unsurprisingly, come at a bit more of a premium.

How long do fillings last?

The lifespan of a filling will depend on a few factors including an individual's personal hygiene and eating habits as well as the type of filling itself. As an indicative guide, fillings made of composite materials will usually last at least 5 years while amalgam and gold fillings can typically last between 10 to 15 years.

Are there alternatives to fillings?

Whilst tooth fillings are one of the most common dental treatments here in New Zealand and around the world, there are alternatives that you can discuss with your dentist. Not everyone is keen on silver fillings or even tooth-coloured fillings and inlays and onlays offer an alternative treatment for filling cavities, helping to restore your natural smile and tackle the issue caused by tooth decay.

Inlays and onlays are forms of tooth decay treatment that work well when a tooth has too much damage for a filling but isn’t at the point where it requires a crown.

The process of fitting an inlay or onlay typically takes longer and will require at least two visits to your dentist. The first visit will see the dentist clean out the cavity and remove any decay or previous tooth filling. A temporary filling is then put in place to protect the tooth. The dentist will also take an impression of the area on the first visit.

At the second visit, the dentist will fix the inlay or onlay, taken from the impression, securely to your tooth.

If you are interested in learning more, talk to your dentist on your next visit.

How much do fillings cost?

The cost of a filling will often depend on the size, placing (front teeth or molars) and type of filling preferred/required. Amalgam fillings are typically the cheapest, followed by composite with gold being easily the most expensive. Your dentist will be able to provide you with a specific quote before the procedure takes place.