What is a Filling?

What is a Filling?

A filling is simply something that the dentists put onto or into your teeth to restore a hole or return a chipped tooth to its normal shape.

There are three types of basic material we use: two are white- they are called composite and GIC(glass ionomer cement) and one is silver, (the one that most of you will be familiar with) is called amalgam.

Dental amalgam has received much attention in recent times for the wrong reasons. The media have caused, in my opinion some unnecessary concern on this front about its use and safety- hopefully I can help alleviate some of your fears and answer some of your questions.

How Long do Fillings Last?

Currently evidence suggests you could expect :

  • A composite filling to last an average of 8 years
  • An amalgam filling an average of 12 years.

The average amount of time a filling will last depends on a number of things. The main factors are: the size of the filling; smaller fillings generally last longer (this is why early detection is so important); and of course the dentist who is placing them- (the correct preparation and filling procedure is obviously very important).

What are the Reasons for Needing a Filling?

  • Caries (tooth decay)

The most common reason for having a filling is as a result of tooth decay. Very early decay can be reversed to return a tooth to normal, without need for a filling in certain circumstances, but as a general rule, if the decay is into dentine, (the second layer of your tooth) or you are getting symptoms, it will need a filling. Where do you get dental decay? Well, theoretically anywhere, but it is most often starts either on the patterns on the top of your tooth,or in-between your teeth and is a result of a poor diet, not enough fluoride and inadequate cleaning especially FLOSSING!

Some of you have teeth in certain positions or patterns on the biting surface of your teeth that make cleaning more difficult and so you are more prone to decay. I also believe some of you are simply more resistant to decay than others and therefore less likely to have problems. This is probably a result of how effective your saliva is at buffering the acid and how potent the bacteria are in your mouth.

  • Tooth wear (sensitivity)

Sometimes tooth wear will make a filling necessary. This could be as a result of over brushingerosion(having too much acid in your diet or gastric reflux) or attrition (grinding/bruxism). Whatever the cause of the tooth wear, the role of the filling is more of a protective one- to seal the exposed dentine which is more prone to dental decay than enamel; to stop plaque building up on uneven surfaces and reduce any sensitivity you may be experiencing.

  • Aesthetics

You may also need a filling for aesthetics reasons. If you have chipped or broken a tooth, a simple filling can restore both its natural look and use. If you have a discoloured area on a tooth or exposed root, a filling can help improve the appearance by covering up the unsightly area. Some tooth may need to be removed to do this and your dentist will need to assess if this is the best way for you to improve your situation. Composite fillings can also be used for cosmetic bonding procedures.

  • A previous filling has failed

Reasons may include; dental caries getting around the margin, part of the filling or tooth fracturing, excessive wear, or the filling is no-longer satisfactory from a cosmetic viewpoint.

  • Cracked tooth