Tooth Filling

Getting a cavity filled is one of the most common dental procedures. It’s an effective solution for stopping tooth pain due to decay and for restoring the tooth to full functionality. Dental fillings have a long history in tooth care; the earliest discovered evidence dates back six thousand years to beeswax fillings found in Italy. Your dentist has much more advanced techniques though, so don’t wait, it will only get worse.


A tooth filling, also called a cavity filling, is often necessary to remove decay or repair minor fractures in a tooth. Tooth decay can occur from an unhealthy diet, poor dental hygiene, medical problems or even a dry mouth. Tooth fractures result from an accident or a dental injury.

The difference between a front tooth filling and a rear tooth filling involves the material used. Your family dentist uses bonding material for a front tooth filling that matches the color of your teeth, so the fillings are practically unnoticeable. A rear tooth filling can use material that doesn’t match, since no one can see these teeth when you smile.

What You Can Expect During the Procedure

Your dentist at Albany County Dental Associates first needs to determine if you have a cavity severe enough to require filling. He inspects your teeth visually and perhaps with an x-ray, if needed, to determine the size, location and severity of the decay. If a filling is necessary, the next step is to remove the decay.

The best family dentist administers a local anesthetic to eliminate any pain during the procedure. Sedation dentistry, is rarely needed for fillings. Once your mouth is numb, the dentist accesses the problem area and removes the decayed tissue. The procedure is painless, although you may feel some pressure.

After the area is free of decay, the dentist inserts the chosen cavity filling material into the shaped hole. Once the material hardens, it’s time for fitting it to your bite and polishing the result. Afterward, you’re given instructions to prevent future tooth decay. Your mouth remains numb for a few hours until the anesthetic wears off.

Materials for Tooth Fillings

You often have the choice between several different materials used for tooth fillings. Amalgam, the metallic-colored material, is rarely used anymore. Other materials have advantages and disadvantages:

  • Composite resin, a popular choice, is composed of a glass and plastic mixture. Composite fillings last about five years. The material matches the color of your teeth, so it’s ideal for a front tooth cavity filling. Since it bonds right to your tooth, your dentist has less drilling to do. Composite resin, however, doesn’t last as long as harder materials, and it’s more expensive than amalgam.
  • Gold, actually a mix of gold and other metals, is used more often for dental inlays, onlays and crowns. But it can be used for fillings. The most durable option, gold is also the most expensive. You may need several trips to your dentist to complete a gold filling.
  • Ceramics, mostly porcelain, is also used for other dental products, such as veneers. While a ceramic filling can last seven years, it may be more expensive than gold. It’s color-match capability make it another option for a front tooth cavity filling. In fact, since it’s more likely to chip, it’s a poor choice for a back tooth filling.

Dental Onlays vs. Dental Inlays

A dental inlay is a pre-molded fitting that fits in your tooth to replace the decayed portion of the tooth. An onlay is similar; the main difference is that an onlay extends to the biting surface or cusp of the tooth. Both conform to your teeth, and both have to be strong enough to withstand the chewing force in your mouth.

Your dentist recommends an inlay if the damage to your tooth is so extensive that a filling may weaken it further. An inlay can save your tooth. When the cusp of the tooth is affected, an onlay may be the best solution. Otherwise, your dentist places a crown over the tooth, but that requires more of your natural tooth to be removed.

Dental Inlays and Dental Onlays

To place a dental inlay or dental onlay, your family dentist removes decayed material from the tooth. Then he takes an impression, which is sent to a laboratory where the inlay or onlay is made from porcelain or a composite resin material, matching the color of your teeth. Gold inlays, which are more durable than composite fillings, are also available.

Both onlays and inlays are recommended for severely decayed or damaged teeth. If a tooth requires too much filling material, the procedure for filling the cavity can actually weaken the tooth. In this situation, your dentist often recommends a dental onlay or dental inlay.

Both inlays and onlays require two visits to your dentist to complete. Between your first and second visit, your Albany Dental dentist gives you a temporary covering so you can eat and speak without worry.