Dental Restoration Options: Learn About Dental Fillings

A dental filling is one of the most common types of a necessary dental restorations, and most people have at least one done during their childhood or teenage years. Some persons, however, may not be familiar with this type of restoration and may wonder how it can benefit their oral health. For patients who have had this treatment recommended, it is important to become familiar with the fundamental process and purpose.

Basic overview of dental fillings

A dentist can diagnose a cavity based on visual examination and X-rays. A dental filling may be recommended, depending on the size and location of the cavity.

When a filling is needed

A dental cavity is a progressive deterioration that needs to be halted before it gets into the nerve space of the tooth. A dental filling is required when a tooth has a cavity that is still in the first two layers of the tooth, enamel and dentin. When all the decay is removed from the cavity and the filling material is placed, the cavity is considered restored and should not get any larger.

When a filling is not recommended

If a cavity has spread into the third layer of the tooth, called the pulp or nerve, a filling is no longer a viable option. In this situation, a root canal may be necessary to remove the decay and save the tooth. Patients may not understand why a tooth can no longer be filled, so it is important that the dentist explain how filling material can irritate the nerve of the tooth and cause pain.

Placement of dental fillings

A dental filling is a minor dental restoration, and most patients have no post-treatment symptoms or only very mild ones. The dentist removes all decayed enamel and dentin with a dental handpiece, which is commonly called a drill. Once the damaged tooth structure is gone, a filling material is placed into the tooth. Fillings are typically made of either metal or resin composites, which are tooth-colored fillings that can be matched to the natural teeth.

Length of time fillings last

The longevity of a dental filling depends on a number of factors including hygiene habits, the size of the filling and the type of material used. If the patient is not diligent about limiting sugar intake and performing frequent brushing and flossing, a filling can get a new cavity around it and have to be replaced. A tooth with a very large filling may have to be crowned at some point in the patient's life since the tooth can weaken over time if too much tooth structure is missing.


While a dental filling might seem a minor procedure for some, knowing what to expect from this dental restoration is important for patients needing the treatment. If a dentist recommends this option, the patient should ask how soon the procedure needs to be done to reduce the chances of the cavity becoming larger. When dental decay is addressed sooner rather than later, the treatment is much less invasive.

Request an appointment here: or call Pier 210 Dental Group at (530) 885-5696 for an appointment in our Auburn office.

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