What is a Filling?

A filling is a way to restore a damaged tooth back to its normal function and shape.To treat a cavity, a dentist will first remove the decayed tooth material, clean the affected area, and then fill the cleaned out cavity with a filling material. By closing off spaces or holes in the teeth where bacteria can enter, a filling also helps prevent further decay. Fillings are also used to repair cracked, broken and worn down teeth from misuse.

Dental restoratives, or fillings, are often made of ceramic and plastic compounds that mimic the appearance of natural teeth. These compounds, often called composite resins, are usually used on the front teeth where a natural appearance is important, and also on the back teeth depending on the location and extent of the tooth decay. Fillings must have the strength and durability for situations where restored teeth must withstand extreme forces that result from chewing, especially in the back of the mouth.

Several factors influence the performance, durability, longevity and expense of dental restorations, including:

  • The components used in the filling material
  • The amount of tooth structure remaining
  • Where and how the filling is placed
  • The chewing load that the tooth will have to bear
  • The length and number of visits needed to prepare and adjust the restored tooth

Before your treatment begins, our doctor will discuss all of your options to choose the best filling for your particular case.  There are the two basic types of dental fillings — direct and indirect.

  • Direct fillings are placed into a prepared cavity in a single visit. They include glass ionomers, resin ionomers, and composite (resin) fillings. The dentist prepares the tooth by removing the decay, places the filling, and adjusts it in one appointment.
  • Indirect fillings generally require two or more visits. They include inlays, onlays, and veneers fabricated with gold, base metal alloys, ceramics, or composites. They are used when a tooth has too much damage to support a filling but not enough to necessitate a crown. During the first visit, the dentist prepares the tooth and makes an impression of the area to be restored.  A temporary covering is placed over the prepared tooth. The impression is sent to a dental laboratory, which creates the dental restoration. At the next appointment, the dentist permanently cements the restoration into the prepared cavity and adjusts it as needed.
Academy of General Dentistry American Orthodontic Society American Dental Association American Academy of Implant Dentistry Texas Dental Association Pankey Institute
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