Dental Fillings

Dental Fillings Overview

According to the CDC, 91% of US adults have had at least one cavity in their life between ages 20 and 64, with 96% having some form of tooth decay by age 65. Chances are that you too, will have a cavity at some point in your life. Here we will discuss the causes and treatment methods for filling cavities.


The acids in plaque remove minerals in your tooth’s hard, outer enamel. This erosion causes tiny opening or holes in the enamel – the first stage of cavities. Once areas of enamel are worn away, the bacteria and acid can reach the next layer of your tooth, called dentin. At that point, it is necessary to remove the decayed area of the tooth and to restore the area with a dental filling.

Filling Material

The selection of material depends on where the cavity is in your mouth. Thanks to technological advances, dentists and patients today several choices when it comes to selecting materials to fill cavities. Among the choices are natural-colored materials such as resin-based composite fillings and more traditional dental fillings such as those made of metal amalgam.

Resin composite fillings are made of ceramic and plastic compounds. Because resins mimic the appearance of natural teeth, these fillings have been used in front teeth for years. When they first appeared, however, resin compounds weren’t strong enough to be used in back teeth, where high pressure grinding and chewing require greater durability. In the past 10 years, technology has improved to allow the use of resin material in posterior or back teeth. Subsequently, resin composite fillings are the most used and recommended for all areas of your mouth.

What to Expect During a Filling

  1. Local anesthesia – at the beginning of your filling procedure, you may be given local anesthetic to numb the area around the tooth
  2. Tooth decay removal – the dentist will cut through the enamel using a drill to remove any decay
  3. Etching – for a bonded filling, your dentist with etch and clean the tooth with an acid gel before the filling is placed
  4. Resin application – for certain types of fillings, the dentist will layer on the resin and harden it using a bright light
  5. Polishing – after the filling is placed, your dentist will polish the tooth and check your bite.
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