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How Do Dental Fillings Work?

Dental Fillings

Dental fillings are a common dental procedure used to repair cavities, cracks, or chips in teeth. They play a vital role in maintaining oral health by preventing further tooth decay and potential tooth loss. But have you ever wondered how these fillings work? This blog post dives deep into dental fillings, explaining the process, different filling materials, and aftercare tips.

Dental Fillings (1)

Understanding Cavities: The Root of the Problem

Before we explore how fillings work, it’s important to understand cavities. Cavities, also known as dental caries, are decayed areas of the tooth caused by plaque buildup. Plaque is a sticky film that forms on teeth from food particles and bacteria. When these bacteria come in contact with sugars in your diet, they produce acids that erode tooth enamel, the hard outer layer of your teeth.

If left untreated, cavities can progress through the enamel and reach the dentin, a softer layer beneath the enamel. This can cause pain and sensitivity and eventually lead to tooth infections. Dental fillings address cavities in their early stages, preventing further damage and restoring tooth function.

The Filling Process: Step-by-Step

The process of getting a dental filling typically involves several steps:

  1. Consultation and Examination: During a consultation, your dentist will examine your teeth to assess the cavity’s location and severity. X-rays might be taken to determine the extent of the decay. 
  2. Anesthesia: Local anesthesia is usually administered to numb the area around the tooth, ensuring a comfortable experience. 
  3. Decay Removal: The dentist meticulously removes the decayed tooth tissue using a dental drill or laser. 
  4. Cleaning and Disinfection: The cleaned area is thoroughly disinfected to eliminate any remaining bacteria. 
  5. Filling Placement: The dentist chooses the appropriate filling material and meticulously fills the cavity. Different materials require specific application techniques. 
  6. Shaping and Polishing: Once the filling is placed, the dentist shapes it to match the natural contour of your tooth and ensures a proper bite. Finally, the filling is polished for a smooth and natural look.

Filling Materials: Choosing the Right Fit

Dental fillings come in various materials, each with its advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a breakdown of the most common types:

  • Amalgam (Silver Fillings): These traditional fillings are durable and long lasting, making them suitable for large cavities or molars subjected to heavy chewing forces. However, their dark color may be aesthetically unappealing for some patients. 
  • Composite Resin (Tooth-Colored Fillings): Composite fillings offer a more natural look as they can be color-matched to blend seamlessly with your surrounding teeth. They are popular for use in front teeth or smaller cavities. However, they may not be as durable as amalgam fillings and might require replacement sooner. 
  • Glass Ionomer Cement: This filling releases fluoride, which helps strengthen the surrounding tooth structure and prevent further decay. They are often used for smaller cavities or children’s teeth. 
  • Gold Fillings: While less common today due to cost, gold fillings are highly durable and can last for many years.

The choice of filling material will depend on several factors, including the location and size of the cavity, your dentist’s recommendation, and your insurance coverage. Discuss these options with your dentist to determine the best fit for your needs.

Post-Filling Care: Keeping Your Smile Healthy

Following a dental filling procedure, it’s crucial to practice good oral hygiene to ensure the longevity of the filling and maintain overall oral health. Here are some aftercare tips:

  • Maintain a Brushing and Flossing Routine: Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes each time, and floss once daily to remove plaque and food particles that can contribute to decay around the filling. 
  • Be Mindful of Sensitive Teeth: You might experience some sensitivity following the procedure, especially if the cavity is close to the nerve. This sensitivity usually subsides within a few days. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help manage any discomfort. 
  • Avoid Chewing Hard Foods: While fillings are durable, it’s best to avoid chewing on hard candies, nuts, or ice cubes, as these can damage the filling. 
  • Schedule Regular Dental Checkups: Regular dental checkups and cleanings are essential for monitoring your oral health and ensuring the fillings remain intact.


Dental fillings are a safe and effective way to restore damaged teeth and prevent further decay. By understanding the process, the different filling materials available, and proper aftercare practices, you can ensure a healthy and beautiful smile for years. If you have any concerns about cavities or dental fillings, consult your Dentist in Sandy, Utah, at Fort Union Family Dental to discuss the best treatment for your needs.

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