A filling is a substance inserted into a cavity that is a result of tooth decay. The filling molds to the tooth’s typical shape. A dentist will remove the decayed part of the tooth, clean the cavity and then fill the space with a filling. Cavities can be found either by physical examination or X-ray.
A filling closes off a surface that is prone to decay. By filling the space in the tooth, food and bacteria no longer have access to the enamel and interior tooth pulp. This limits the damage that can be created by bacteria. If a cavity is left untreated, the damage can lead to more serious dental interventions, including root canals and tooth extractions.
Fillings can be made from several substances:
- Gold: Made in a lab, may require multiple visits, expensive, long lasting.
- Amalgam: Inexpensive, very visible, easy to place, long lasting.
- Porcelain: Made in lab to match your tooth color and will resist staining, expensive, long lasting.
- Composite resin: Plastic, tooth-colored filling that can be made to match your tooth color (but may stain), easy to place, lasts 3 to 10 years.
- CAD-CAM: Computer generated restoration.