6 Facts About Dental Fillings: Everything You Need to Know


A dental filling, sometimes referred to as a dental restoration, is a treatment that repairs missing tooth structure as the result of a cavity.

Tooth fillings have come a long way since their inception. Researchers have found evidence that our ancestors attempted to use substances such as beeswax to repair teeth thousands of years ago. Silver amalgam fillings themselves have been in use for over 100 years.

Today, our dentist Saunders DDS, use non-mercury fillings such as composite resin to repair teeth damaged from decay or trauma. Their use in dentistry has helped countless patients to avoid losing teeth due to tooth decay.

Here are a few facts about dental fillings from your dentist in Asheville!

1. Decay Can Happen Underneath Dental Fillings

While dental fillings are designed to eliminate cavities from the tooth and, if properly cared for, prevent their return, tooth decay can reoccur underneath a damaged dental filling.

How does this happen?

Fillings are susceptible to damage just like the rest of our teeth and other dental restorations. Over time, dental fillings can become worn out from biting or grinding pressure, or they can crack or break.

When this happens, bacteria from your mouth can enter the tooth and begin to form a new cavity underneath your dental restoration. The best way to prevent this from happening is to take care of your smile and, of course, visit your dentist to ensure your filling is healthy and stable.

2. There Are Several Different Types of Filling Materials

In the not-so-distant past, silver amalgam fillings were virtually your only choice for a filling material. Although these fillings certainly did their job, they were often visible in people’s mouths. Today, composite resin is a commonly used filling material that’s designed to match your natural teeth.

There are several different types of filling materials besides silver amalgam and composite resin. Your dentist may also offer:

  • Glass ionomer fillings. These are ideal for smaller cavities, such as those on the front teeth.
  • Ceramic fillings. These are glass-like fillings which are excellent at resisting decay and accurately mimicking your natural teeth, although they aren’t ideal for molars due to the fact that they are more susceptible to cracks.
  • Resin ionomer fillings. These are most commonly used for baby teeth and non-chewing teeth. Resin ionomer can even contain fluoride to help prevent future decay.

Typically, the type of material your dentist in Asheville uses will be dependent on the location and severity of the cavity. For example, composite resin would be more ideal for a molar than a ceramic filling, and an ionomer filling would be a better fit for front teeth than either of these materials.

If you need to have a cavity filled, you can talk with your dentist about the different types of filling materials to find out which one is right for you.

3. Fillings Can Usually Be Done in One Appointment

Fillings usually don’t take very long and, in most cases, can be done in just one appointment. During this appointment, your dentist will use local anesthesia to numb your mouth, as he or she will need to remove the decayed hard tissue from your tooth before filling the hole.

Once your dentist is able to fill and seal your tooth with the filling material, you’ll be able to go home, although you should avoid eating until the numbness of your mouth wears off so you don’t accidentally bite your gums, tongue, or lips!

4. Just Because You Have a Cavity Doesn’t Always Mean You’ll Need a Filling

Many people automatically assume that because they have a cavity, they’ll need to get it filled. In reality, how your cavity is treated all depends on how large the cavity is.

For some patients, a filling won’t save the tooth. This happens when the cavity has progressed to the point that it’s compromised the tooth’s structure, meaning that a filling won’t hold the tooth together once the decayed tissue has been removed.

When this happens, you may need a dental crown to help retain the tooth structure, which is a tooth restoration designed to look just like the tooth it’s replacing and will sit on top of your natural tooth to protect it from further harm.

You may also need root canal therapy if the decay is so deep that it’s affected the nerve of your tooth. During root canal therapy, your Asheville dentist will remove the affected nerve tissue and hard tissue of your tooth and seal the tooth to prevent further problems. If you need root canal therapy, you’ll still need to have a dental crown placed on top in most instances to keep protecting the tooth.

5. Without a Filling, Your Cavity Will Get Worse

You can’t ignore a cavity. Tooth decay usually starts out very small but will continue to get worse over time. A cavity can spread to envelop your entire tooth, which can cause the need for a tooth extraction.

Since we don’t have nerves in our tooth enamel, it’s often difficult to know if you have a cavity. Early tooth decay doesn’t cause many symptoms, which is why regular dentist visits are so important. Your dentist can spot a cavity before it even has a chance to become a cavity!

Many people don’t realize they have a cavity until it’s progressed to the point that the nerves of the tooth are involved and they have a severe toothache, tooth sensitivity, or a dental abscess, which has the potential to be life threatening if left untreated.

6. Fillings Do Not Last Forever

Some patients think that once they get a filling, they’re set for life. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Fillings don’t last forever, and all fillings will need to be replaced eventually.

How long your filling lasts will depend on a variety of factors, such as how well it was installed, how well you take care of your oral health, and what material is used. On average, people can expect composite resin fillings to last approximately five years while silver amalgam fillings can last approximately fifteen years.

Every person is different and it’s vital to get your fillings checked out regularly to ensure they’re still intact and protecting your smile!

Need a Dental Filling or a Filling Repair?

If you’re not sure what state your filling is in or are having symptoms of a cavity forming, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your Asheville dentist, Dr. Saunders. Click here to schedule an appointment or give us a call at (828) 277-6060.

Book an appointment with our dentist for everything you need to know about dental fillings and  get your dental check up done. Call (828) 277-6060 now!