Dental Filling (Restorative Dentistry)

A dental filling is a restorative procedure that involves adding a protective substance into a tooth cavity to shield it against further structural damage and avoid the need for tooth extraction later on.

As cavities (caries) due to tooth decay form in the tooth, the tooth becomes more sensitive to heat and cold. The presence of cavity also creates more areas in the mouth where the bacteria can thrive, causing more damage until they reach the gums and roots of the tooth.

There are many different types of dental fillings and they can be permanent, indirect, and temporary. Common permanent dental fillings are usually Silver Amalgam, Glass Ionomer, Dental Composite and Ceramic


It is estimated that from start to finish in the general population, a cavity can take about 3 years to go from early decay beginning on the surface of the tooth to a large cavity that reaches down into the nerve. If a cavity is caught early, before it breaks through the enamel, in theory it is possible to reverse it through home and dental office fluoride treatments, changes in oral hygiene care and diet. Your dentist may be willing to try and remineralize the tooth this way, before drilling and putting a filling in.  If a filling can be avoided, the tooth will be stronger for remaining intact. But it depends on when a cavity is detected and how diligent the treatment is.

There are a few signs that will indicate when a filling might be necessary.

  • sensitivity to hot, cold and sugary foods.
  • pain when biting or chewing on a certain tooth.
  • getting food stuck in certain spots in your mouth.
  • a rough, broken or chipped tooth.
  • a dark spot on the surface of the tooth.
  • general tooth pain.
  • floss that keeps getting shredded in between certain teeth.
  • a filling that has fallen out.
  • an x-ray showing decay under the surface of a tooth.

Regular dental check-ups are a very important component in catching tooth decay in its beginning stages when it is relatively easy to address and prevent further damage.

Fillings come in a wide variety of materials. Commonly used restorative materials are silver amalgam, tooth-colored composites, Glass Ionomer cement and ceramic.

A common misconception is that dental restorations last forever but unfortunately this is rarely true. With time dental restorations may break down or become loose, allowing decay to enter the area around the restoration and become problematic. Although you can’t expect your fillings, bridges, and crowns to last forever, you can do your part to make them last as long as possible. Maintain great oral hygiene and visit your dentist regularly to keep those restorations in great condition for as long as possible.

Normally, your tooth will remain sensitive to heat and cold for about 2 days after the filling. This pain is normally very mild. You should feel no pain and be back to normal in three days.

Aside from a medical condition, bad breath usually comes from the bacteria that lives in our mouth. These bacteria feed off of food particles in your mouth and then release a volatile compound which causes the odor in your mouth. Cavities or old fillings that have decay under them can definitely cause bad breath. But just having a filling in your mouth will not cause the odor.  It is the bacteria doing that. If improved oral hygiene does not seem to help the problem, have a conversation with your dentist to rule out any other causes and to make a plan to address the issue.

Most insurance plans will cover the least expensive choice of fillings. It depends on your particular insurance provider whether they cover full or part of the payment. Most will cover a part of the payment. Your dentist should be able to help you find out.