Tooth fillings are a dental restoration procedure designed to artificially restore the integrity, anatomy, and function of a tooth that has been damaged by cavities, decay, or trauma. Tooth filling may be classified as direct or indirect.
Direct restoration involves placing tooth filling material directly onto the damaged tooth. There are various types of filling materials used for direct restoration, such as amalgam, resin or composite, resin ionomer, and glass ionomer.
Indirect restoration refers to making dental fillings outside of the mouth, such as in a dental laboratory, and cementing them into the damaged tooth. This may be done with porcelain, gold alloy, or base metal alloy.
A tooth damaged by decay or fracture needs to be restored or fixed to prevent the exposure of a tooth’s interior to bacteria. Once bacteria penetrate a tooth, the starches and sugars could dissolve the structure of the tooth, resulting in infection of the tooth tissues.
Restoring or filling damaged teeth using dental filling materials offers the following benefits:
- Prevents further damage to the tooth that has been affected by trauma or cavities.
- Protects the structure of surrounding teeth from further damage.
- Restores the function of the damaged tooth.
- Protects the nerve of the tooth from damage.
- Prevents the loss of the damaged tooth.
- Makes the tooth easier to clean.
- Reduces the bacterial presence in the mouth.
- Helps maintain fresh breath.
A tooth filling must be placed immediately after the tooth is damaged or decayed. Filling a damaged tooth as early as possible is recommended in order to prevent further damage to the tooth structure. After some time, the damaged tooth will lose its integrity, and the dentist will have to remove more of its structure, weakening it further. The tooth filling procedure is less complex when it is done soon after the damage or decay has been discovered.