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Dental Fillings (Restorations)

Treatment Overview

A filling is a material that your dentist uses to fill a cavity after the dentist removes any tooth decay. To fill a tooth, your dentist will numb (freeze) the area, drill out the decay, and put in a filling. There are many types of fillings.

Types of fillings

Fillings can be made from many types of material. Talk to your dentist about which type would be best for you.

  • Amalgam is the easiest material for a dentist to use. It's the fastest and least costly choice. Amalgam is a mixture of mercury, silver, tin and copper.
  • Composite resins are tooth-coloured fillings. Composite resin is easier than gold for a dentist to work with. And it usually costs less than gold.
  • Ionomers are tooth-coloured materials that dentists often use for root cavities, cavities in baby teeth, or where it's not practical to use other materials. Some ionomers release small amounts of fluoride. This may help you if you often get cavities.
  • Gold is costly and is harder for your dentist to work with. This makes the procedure take longer and cost more.
  • Ceramics are costly tooth-coloured fillings. They require special equipment and may require dental lab support. You may need several appointments.

What To Expect

After your dentist has filled the cavity, your lips and gums may stay numb (frozen) for a few hours until the numbing medicine wears off. To avoid injuring your mouth, be careful not to chew on your numb lip or cheek.

Your filled tooth may be sensitive to heat and cold for days to weeks after you get the filling. Talk to your dentist about toothpastes that may help you with this discomfort. Tell your dentist if the discomfort in your tooth lasts longer than you expect after biting, or if your teeth are too sensitive after you get a filling. These problems can usually be treated.

Why It Is Done

You need a filling when your tooth has decay. If you don't get a filling, the tooth decay will get worse. Untreated, the cavity will get larger, destroying more of the tooth structure and it may cause pain and infection. This may lead to more severe problems.

How Well It Works

A filling repairs the tooth and stops tooth decay. Over a long period of time, you may need to replace a worn-out filling.

Risks

There is almost no risk involved in having a cavity filled. If the tooth decay is too close to the nerve, you may need a root canal treatment or have the tooth removed.

Credits

Adapted with permission from copyrighted materials from Healthwise, Incorporated (Healthwise). This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty and is not responsible or liable for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.