How To Fill A Cavity

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Almost every adult suffers from one or more kinds of dental problems. Though dental problems are common, their types and severity change according to every person's unique circumstances like genes and hygiene. Talking of common dental problems, the most widespread dental concern is cavities. Every year millions of Americans get their cavities treated by dentists. There are also many more people who are completely unaware of cavities developing in hidden areas inside their mouths.

Cavities are not only a source of discomfort, but they can also make people feel less confident. The only solution is to deal with a cavity by filling it as soon as you spot one, instead of waiting for it to fester. 

What is a Cavity? 

We use our teeth every day to grind food and nourish our bodies. It is a well-established fact that digestion starts in the mouth when we begin to break down the food into smaller pieces. While evolution has made our teeth the perfect tool to do so, they do come with a small terms and conditions section for their usage. The condition is to not let any food get stuck in the teeth for a long time because when that happens, it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. 

As the bacteria start breaking down food particles, they also eat away that the top protective layer of our teeth. This happens eventually and when you notice a black dot, that's a small cavity. If left untreated, the cavity will gradually spread and go deeper.

How to Deal With Cavities 

The number one solution to tackle a cavity is not getting one. We know it sounds impossible, but it isn't. If you have strong teeth and a good bone density, with due care, you might never even develop a cavity. Remember that cavities don't happen with one or two instances of you being lax on your dental care, it builds up over time. As long as you follow a good routine, the chances of not just cavities but any dental concern is low. 

However, if you, unfortunately, do get a cavity, which can happen despite taking care of it, it is advised to get it checked in the first instance. As we discussed, all cavities start small and you're lucky to spot them at that stage itself. Why? It would be much easier for you to prepare yourself for a dentist visit and it would be a cakewalk for the dentist to treat it. A cavity can be described as a small hole or a pit, so naturally, the easiest way to deal with one would be to fill the hole.

What is a Filling? 

Filling your cavity is the easiest and the most straightforward solution to the problem. A filling consists of materials that bond with your teeth once the decay has been removed. It literally does what it says, it fills the empty spot left behind after the decay. Once a dentist removes the black rotten part of the tooth, the hole created is vulnerable. Without filling it up, the tooth can once again begin to decay because it would definitely catch more food. Not only that, drilling also weakens the entire foundation of a tooth because you lose a substantial part of it. But when filled, the same tooth comes back stronger. Depending on the location and size of your cavity, and your budget, your dentist will recommend to you the most ideal filling type.

Is it Safe to Get a Filling?

Fillings are usually considered the safest option for cavity treatment. There are little to no cases of people developing allergic reactions to their fillings. Additionally, at the hands of an experienced doctor, there's only a minute chance of a patient noticing complications in their filling.

Some people are speculative about the materials that cavities are filled with and their concerns are completely justified. But, every major type of filling available in the market is FDA-approved, including amalgam fillings. Unless an individual suffers a rare condition where getting a filling could be harmful to them, fillings are completely safe.

When Do You Know It's Time to Fill a Cavity 

There are times when people don't notice a cavity until it is too late. In case a cavity spreads too deep and gets in touch with the pulp, you may get a tooth infection. In the early stages when cavities are barely noticeable, there are usually no symptoms to tell you it's time for a dentist visit.

As time goes by, you might start to feel a bit more sensitive in a particular tooth. This is generally an indication that a cavity has started to delve deeper into your tooth. Some discoloration in the teeth or gums is also a good indicator. Most people run to their dentists when a tooth starts aching, but it's ideal to consult a doctor at the early stages of any of the abovementioned symptoms.


Types of Fillings 

As a dental patient, you will have the option to choose from a variety of fillings. It is best to choose one that your dentist says would be the most suited to you. 


In the world of tooth fillings, amalgam is the most reliable, the heaviest and also the oldest. It is a silver colored mixture of metals like copper and mercury. Amalgam fillings are known for their ability to last much longer than their resin-based counterparts. Though these fillings last years, they are very noticeable due to their striking color. Most people get amalgam fillings only for their back molars. Mercury vapors are considered toxic, but their level in amalgam is barely noticeable. Still, vulnerable groups like pregnant or lactating women, kids etc. are advised to choose other fillings.


Composite material contains resin and glass. This kind of filling is made to match the shade of our teeth and is hence unnoticeable.


Made of porcelain, ceramic fillings blend in with the tooth. They are more expensive but retain fewer stains than other fillings, which means ceramic fillings are more aesthetically inclined. 

Glass ionomer 

This filling is made of powdered glass and contains some fluoride to help strengthen the teeth and make it immune to decay.


The most expensive filling, which is also the most durable. Gold fillings contain a mix of metals like gold and copper and are known to even last entire lifetimes.

What to Expect 

FIllings are a minor treatment and you will do yourself a huge service by not letting it make you nervous. You can expect the dentist to evaluate your cavity and recommend you to either set an appointment for the filling or do it straight away. The procedure is short and straightforward, and you'll be done in thirsty minutes or more. After a filling, you can expect instantaneous relief from toothache or general discomfort.


After a thorough inspection of your tooth, the dentist will prepare for the filling. They first take X-rays to judge the level of decay and discuss the best course of action with the patient. To prepare the teeth, the area is administered a local anesthetic to numb it for the procedure. Though the teeth do not feel anything, they are connected to blood vessels and drilling may cause pain. To avoid this, a filling always starts with numbing.

Once the anesthesia kicks in, the dentist gets to work by removing the decay, disinfecting and cleaning the entire area. This ensures that no bacteria gets left behind and the filling has a clean foundation. After cleaning, the filling is put into the hole and molded according to the shape of your tooth. This is done to make it easier for you to chew and to not overfill the hole. Once the dentist is satisfied that no entries are left for bacteria to enter, the procedure is complete.


Following the filling, you will feel numb for a few hours but feeling will eventually come back to the area. Getting a cavity filled is not the end. If you want your filling to last long or no more cavities to occur, you will have to give a few more minutes of extra care. Your dentist will provide you with a simple dental routine and simply following it will keep your mouth healthy.

Patients should try not to eat anything for at least an hour after the procedure. The filling will settle and bond with your teeth during that time. Though the filling hardens a bit after being put in the teeth, it will take some time to completely hadren and for you to get used to it. At the beginning, you might feel an uncanny heaviness or pressure but it will go away after a while.

When to Contact Your Dentist After a Filling 

Fillings seldom develop any complications but if they do anything other than look normal, you should contact your dentist. Sometimes, too much filling product may cause the tooth or the filling to crack. If you notice such a crack, call the dentist right away.

A little bit of sensitivity or tooth pain is common after a filling, but it should not go on for extended periods of time. If you have persisting and sharp toothache after a filling, it might call for a checkup.

In rare cases, people might develop some allergic reactions to the filling or to any material used during the procedure. If this happens, or if you notice anything out of the ordinary like swelling, you should visit the dentist's clinic. 

Alternatives to Filling

A filling is the best and quickest solution to cavities available according to the latest medical technology. However, there does exist a method to treat a cavity without getting it filled. This method takes very long as compared to a filling, but it focuses on reversing the decay, killing the bacteria and rebuilding the tooth. Remineralization of tooth is possible but its scope is very limited as it helps patients with cavities in their early stages. Once a cavity has spread to a substantial extent, it is not practical to try and remineralize it. If your cavity can be reversed using this method, your dentist will advise you to choose that path. However, if a dentist doesn't recommend it, chances are it's too late for the decay to be dealt with naturally.

Filling Considerations

As a patient, there are certain things you can do to make the experience easier for yourself and for you filling to last very long. 

  • On the day of the procedure, try not to be anxious - fillings are very common and very simple. 
  • Try to stay away from very hard or sticky foods like candy, jerky etc. Such foods might loosen the fillings. 
  • Always be aware of your oral hygiene.

Are Fillings Permanent? 

As much as we'd like fillings to last for an entire lifetime, they usually last from a few to many years depending on the type of filling and individual circumstances. You should also try to get your fillings checked during your routine dentist visits.

Can You Replace a Filling?

After a few years, you can definitely get your filling changed even if there is no apparent issue with the same. This not only avoids any future problems, it also keeps your filled tooth in the best possible shape. FIllings also undergo the same wear and tear our tooth suffer on the daily. So, even if there isn't a visible issue, you can never be too sure that everything is normal under it.

Going to the dentist can be unnerving but once they get a treatment, most patients realize the checkups go much smoother than expected. Oral problems can also be some of the most annoying issues and getting rid of them makes the experience completely worth it. With the right dentist and the level of care every patient deserves, you can strengthen your teeth and reap its benefits. Visiting a dentist is important not just as a cure but also as a precautionary measure to nip any problem in the bud. We believe in keeping our patient's teeth healthy so they always put their best and brightest smiles forward. Get in touch with us so we can start our bright smile journey with you too!