Fillings replace parts of the tooth that have been lost through wear, damage or decay. Your dentist will carefully remove any damage or decay and restore the tooth to its original size and shape with a strong and durable filling.
Where the nature of the damage or decay makes a filling impractical, the decayed or weak part of the tooth can be removed and replaced with an inlay or onlay – a replacement made to fit into the space left by the removed part of the tooth.
Many people have what are known as ‘amalgam’ (silver/black) fillings, or in some cases gold fillings. Although these fillings are strong, they can be unsightly. Furthermore, amalgam tends to discolour your teeth over time.
Tooth coloured fillings, or ‘white’ fillings, are known as ‘composite’ fillings and are made from a putty-like resin-based material that can be moulded to the exact shape of the tooth and set using a blue light. These are lifelike and long lasting and are currently the most popular cosmetic dental procedure. They can have some limitations which your dentist can discuss with you; these involve their size and position in the mouth and their longevity.
If a cavity is detected during a check-up, your dentist can provide a dental filling before it develops into a more serious problem. Dental fillings replace part of a tooth that has been lost because of decay, wear or accidental damage.
Fillings can be amalgam (silver coloured) or composite (tooth coloured) which gives a more natural look. Composite fillings give a variety of finishes, and can be made to be virtually undetectable from a natural tooth.
Your dentist will prepare the tooth for the filling; numbing the area, removing any decay, old fillings or weak areas of the tooth, shape the hole so that the tooth holds the filling in place, then wash and dry the area by blowing water and air onto it. The filling is then placed into the tooth, and moulded into shape.
Inlays and onlays
Inlays and onlays provide an alternative to fillings, replacing part of a tooth that has been lost because of decay, wear or accidental damage. They are stronger and can last longer than fillings, and are especially suitable for the chewing surfaces on back teeth and large repairs to front teeth.
Onlays and inlays can be made of metal, composite or porcelain – the latter results in a repair that is virtually undetectable.
An inlay sits in a hole in the tooth. An onlay sits on the tooth and builds up its shape.
The tooth is prepared in the same way as a filling (see above). Once prepared, an impression is taken of the tooth using a soft mouldable material. This is then given to a dental technician to build a bespoke inlay/onlay to the exact size and shape required.
A temporary filling is applied on the tooth, whilst the inlay/onlay is being built. When they are ready, your dentist will glue the inlay/onlay into place and make small adjustments to ensure a comfortable bite is maintained.
Why should I consider white fillings?
Most people have fillings of one sort or another in their mouths. Nowadays fillings are not only functional, but can be natural looking as well. Many people don’t want silver fillings that show when they laugh or smile because they are more conscious about the way they look.