Fillings are a type of dental restoration used to repair a tooth damaged by decay (caries). It is common for a tooth to have decay but not cause any sensitivity or discomfort. The following graphics show examples of tooth decay.
When tooth decay reaches the point of causing pain the decay is usually too advanced for a filling to properly restore the tooth. A crown and possibly a root canal may be be needed. The cost of these two procedures, for a single tooth, is greater than the cost of 14 regular or periodic dental checkups. Regular dental checkups will catch any decay while it is still minor in nature and your best means to avoid costly dental treatment.
With a filling, the decay is removed from the tooth and the cavity created is then prepared or shaped to accommodate the filling material. This preparation will ensure a proper seal and bonding of the material to the tooth.
There are three types of filling material in common use today (amalgam, composite, and gold) and each has different preparation requirements. Amalgam is a metallic gray, silver & mercury alloy which hardens or cures over time after placement. Composite is a tooth colored resin which is light-cured after placement. Gold is a soft metal which is pressed into the cavity and forms a seal as a result of the placement pressure, no curing involved. The following graphics shows the different types of fillings.
It is common to experience some sensitivity and possibly some gum irritation for a few days after treatment. These side effects will be most noticeable a few hours after the procedure and diminishing in nature until gone. Sometimes the filling will need additional adjustment to ensure proper bite alignment. If you notice that your “bite” does not feel right, tell your doctor.