Your frequently asked questions about fillings!

Dental fillings have often been a source of anxiety for patients across the years but as techniques and technology have developed, so too have comfort levels when it comes to the procedure.

We often find that patient anxiety is driven by a fear of the unknown.  That is why we we have taken the time to put together this blog, answering some of the most frequently asked questions about fillings:

What happens when you need a filling?

Often the first thing people want to know, is why they need a filling at all? They want to know exactly what has happened to their tooth and how a filling will help.

There can actually be a number of different reasons why people need to get fillings but the most common one is typically due to a cavity in the tooth. Also known as tooth decay, cavities can be caused by a mixture of sugary food and drink intake, bacteria in your mouth, and ineffective/insufficient cleaning of your teeth.

A dental filling procedure removes this decay from the tooth, replacing it with a filling so it can function like a normal tooth once again.

Other reasons for those who need dental fillings include broken teeth, teeth grinding, and replacement of old/broken fillings.

Do dental fillings hurt?

With modern practice and technology, the dental filling procedure should not be a painful one. As a matter of fact, once complete, they’ll relieve the pain you’ve been feeling (if that is one of the symptoms you’ve been having).

The use of a numbing gel and local anaesthetic on the tooth reduces the sensitivity of the area and allows the dentist to proceed without discomfort to the patient. Your mouth will feel numb for a period after the filling has been done but that will subside after a few hours.

Because of the experience of our dentists, shallow cavities can also be filled without anaesthetic in a pain-free way and they will let you know if this applies to you.

How long does a dental filling take?

The dental filling procedure can vary in length depending on its complexity. On average, however, you can expect a dental filling procedure to take about an hour in total.

The process typically involves several steps to complete. Firstly, the anaesthetic will be administered. The tooth decay will then be removed and space made for the filling itself. The filling is then applied in layers with a special UV light used to cure the substance, in effect, hardening it (composite fillings only). Finally, the filling will be shaped and polished to look natural in the mouth, removing any sharp edges and giving balance to your bite.

Do fillings weaken teeth?

Fillings are designed to do the exact opposite of weakening teeth. As a matter of fact, the purpose of a filling is to restore a tooth, compromised by decay or fracture, back to a state so that it can function like a natural tooth.

In an ideal world we would take immaculate care of our teeth and avoid the primary causes of tooth decay, such as sugary treats. However, modern lifestyles and diets mean that few people are able to get through life completely filling-free.

Without fillings, cavities are most likely to worsen. Fillings prolong the life of healthy teeth by removing decay and strengthening the vacated area.

What are dental fillings made out of?

There are two main types of fillings that are used in dentistry today – amalgam fillings and composite (white) fillings.

Amalgam fillings have been around longer than you might think with evidence of its origins dating back to the 7th Century. It was in the 19th Century, however, that they became the most commonly used filling, made from a mixture of silver, mercury, zinc and copper.

Composite fillings are a much more recent invention, by comparison, first appearing in the 1970s before costs and technology made it a more practical choice in the 1990s and 2000s. Composite fillings are made out of a plastic and ceramic resin.

Are white fillings better?

The question of whether a white filling or amalgam filling is better really comes down to what’s appropriate and right for the patient as both have their merits.

Amalgam fillings are stronger, being a mixture of metals, with their average lifespan showing that to generally be the case. If a patient needs a particularly large filling and wants longevity to be a priority, then this might be the preferred choice.

Composite fillings have the advantage of being more aesthetically pleasing. As composite resin is a colour that closely resembles the natural shades of teeth, this can be the fact that sways the choice for patients.

How long do dental fillings last?

There is a little bit of variability for the length of time a filling will last, primarily down to the environment the filling is exposed to while in the mouth of the individual. What you eat, how you eat, how you care for your teeth – all have an influence on its longevity. The type of filling you get will also dictate how long the filling will be expected to last.

On average, an amalgam filling lasts about 15 years while a composite filling on average lasts about 7 years. However, it’s important to note that these are broad averages and we’ve had patients whose fillings have lasted above and beyond this time.

How often do dental fillings need to be replaced?

As mentioned previously, this is somewhat dependent on what the filling and tooth are exposed to over the course of its life and how it is cared for by the patient.

On average, composite and amalgam fillings last about 7 – 15 years respectively. Regular check-ups with your dentist are the best way to monitor and manage the fillings in your teeth. This way, your dentist will be able to keep an eye on them and be proactive in spotting early signs of wear to stop the situation from getting worse.

The moral of this blog: Don’t be afraid to ask your dentist questions!  Knowing what to expect will alleviate your fear.

At Hamilton Dental Centre, we work hard to put you at ease from the moment you walk into our clinic. If you’re still feeling a little tense at the time of your appointment, let us know and don’t hesitate to ask any other questions that you may have.

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