A tooth filling is a dental procedure in which a decayed tooth is repaired. During a tooth filling, your Asheville dentist will remove any decayed material from the tooth and fill it with a material, typically composite resin (also called tooth-colored fillings).
Your dentist will then conform the filling material to your tooth shape and smooth it so that it is indistinguishable from the rest of your teeth. Your tooth is now restored and free of decay!
Tooth fillings are a common dental procedure that can happen in one appointment at your dentist’s office. But how long does a filling take, how long does it last, and is it painful? We answer your questions about dental fillings here.
How Long Does a Tooth Filling Take?
A tooth filling can typically happen in just one appointment and can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes. The length of time a filling takes will depend on factors such as:
- The filling material
- How extensive the decay is
- The location of the tooth
- How many teeth need to be filled
So how long does it take to fill a small cavity? A smaller filling may take only 20 minutes, but a large filling can take the full hour. You can always ask your dentist how long they expect the appointment to last so you can plan your day accordingly.
Does a Filling Hurt?
Thanks to local anesthesia, which will be administered before the procedure for your filling begins, tooth fillings do not hurt. You will be completely numb for the procedure and not feel any pain, although you may feel some pressure or vibration as your dentist removes the decay and fills the hole in your tooth.
Some minor discomfort after a filling is to be expected. Your tooth may feel more sensitive after the anesthesia wears off, so avoid very hot or cold foods and drinks and brush your teeth gently as directed by your dentist. If you have any concerns after getting a filling, don’t hesitate to reach out to your dental practice.
How Long Does a Filling Last?
Like many dental restorations, fillings don’t last forever. How long a filling lasts will depend on the location of the filling, the material used, and how well you care for your teeth.
How long do metal fillings last? Amalgam fillings, also known as silver fillings, can last up to 15 years or longer. However, many people prefer not to have metal in their mouths, which can distract from the natural beauty of the smile. In addition, metal fillings are known for having mercury, which may pose a health risk.
Composite resin fillings can last about 7-10 years and potentially longer with proper care. Your dentist will let you know if your filling needs to be repaired or replaced during your regular checkups. Keeping a filling properly maintained can help prevent it from unexpectedly falling out or causing a dental emergency.
Glass ionomer fillings, which are typically used for cavities closest to the tooth roots on the front teeth, have the shortest lifespan—about five years—while ceramic fillings tend to last the longest, about 20 years, with proper care.
How Do I Know If I Need a Filling?
Tooth decay may not show symptoms early on, which is why it’s imperative to see your dentist at regular intervals to identify early tooth decay. The sooner you address tooth decay, the less extensive the filling will be and the more of your natural tooth structure can be preserved.
However, if the decay progresses, it can cause symptoms such as:
- Tooth sensitivity
- A dark spot (or visible hole) in the tooth
- Gum swelling or pain
- A toothache
In severe cases, tooth decay can cause a tooth abscess and potentially a fever. If you are experiencing these symptoms, please seek emergency care as soon as possible.
Will a Cavity Go Away Without a Filling?
It may be possible to reverse an early cavity that has not yet compromised the layers underneath your tooth enamel with fluoride applications, so a filling may not be necessary in every case.
However, if you have a cavity that has progressed, it will not go away without professional treatment. Ignoring a cavity or brushing your teeth more will not solve the problem, so you will need to see your dentist to repair the cavity and prevent tooth loss.
Ignoring a cavity can cause the decay to encompass the entire tooth, which can lead to a tooth infection and the need for root canal therapy or an extraction.
How Much Do Tooth Fillings Cost?
Fillings are typically covered under dental insurance, so if you have insurance, the filling may not cost anything, or you may have to pay a co-pay or a deductible.
If you do not have insurance, the cost of the filling will vary depending on the material used and the size of the filling, so the cost can vary, but it is generally an affordable dental procedure. Your Asheville dentist can give you a more specific cost estimate during your consultation.
How Do I Take Care of a Filling?
You won’t have to do any special care for your filling once your tooth is healed. You will still need to brush and floss your teeth and visit your dentist at least once a year. It is possible to get decay under a filling or to get decay on another area of the tooth, so a filling won’t prevent decay—it has simply repaired the decay that was there before. Maintaining your oral hygiene will help you maintain your filling and prevent future cavities.
Have More Questions About Fillings? Come See Us!
Saunders DDS is here to answer all your questions about dental fillings in Asheville. If you are concerned you have a cavity, want to know more about the materials we use, or want to find out how long your filling procedure will take, schedule an appointment with us by calling (828) 277-6060 or by reaching us online.
Contact Saunders DDS, one of our friendly Asheville dentists, today to book an appointment if you need a tooth filling! Contact us at (828) 277-6060 to book an appointment.