A tooth filling is a procedure of restoring a damaged tooth to the normal shape and function. Tooth damages are caused by decay or cracking. Tooth decay may be caused by several factors that include not brushing and flossing regularly, eating food high in sugar, insufficient fluoride, or inadequate saliva.

The first step in filling a tooth by your dentist is the removal of the decayed areas and cleaning teeth. The cavity is then filled with the filling material. Filling, which closes the off the spaces that may allow additional entry of bacteria, prevents further tooth decay.

Tooth filling materials have varied over the decades and has included gold, amalgam, porcelain, copper, silver, tin, or zinc, and composite resin which allows for a tooth colored filling. Gold, as tooth filling, is durable and may last for decades and it does not adversely affect gum tissues. Gold tooth fillings, however, are very expensive. Porcelain tooth fillings are bonded to the tooth and cover most of the tooth. Amalgam fillings have dark color and are not frequently used in the front teeth. Amalgam fillings are the least expensive among the fillings. Porcelain fillings are clean, white, and are stain resistant. Composite resins are popular because they can match the natural color of the tooth.

When are tooth fillings needed?

If a person notices excessive discoloration in the grooves of a tooth, it may be an indicator of a cavity. Cavities can often be felt due to sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures, too. If you see obvious discoloration or holes in a tooth or experience sensitivity or pain, the best step is to see a dentist. Only a dentist can professionally determine if a person has cavities that will require being filled.

How does a dentist identify if a tooth filling is needed?

Healthy teeth are hard and strong. Decaying and unhealthy teeth are comparatively soft and weaker. The dentist uses a small mirror during a dental checkup to examine the surface of every tooth. The dentist will use special instruments if they notice anything that does not look normal. A probe may be used to determine the presence of decay in the teeth. The dentist may also require X-ray of either a particular section or of the entire mouth to further determine the extent of the damage caused by tooth decay.

Your dentist will then decide on the kind of treatment needed based on the extent of the damage resulting from decay. Your dentist may recommend a tooth filling to restore the integrity and structure of the affected tooth or teeth. If fracture or decay has resulted to great degree of damage to the tooth, a crown may be recommended. If the decay has already reached the nerves, the dentist may recommend a root canal.