Why do I need a filling?

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A procedure called a filling is a common course of action administered in a dental clinic. You may wonder why it is needed and how you can prevent it. Read our latest article to find out a little more.

Fillings are normally a result of dental decay occurring. As we eat and drink overtime, bacteria and plaque form in all our mouths around our teeth. This ‘fight’ is normally won by cleaning teeth twice and day and regular visits to the dentist, including for scale and polishing. However, sometimes the acid produced by plaque and bacteria can decay the tooth causing a hole (cavity) to form. As this happens the dentine and enamel of the tooth is gradually worn away meaning the tooth becomes damaged. This is especially common in harder to reach / clean areas of the mouth, such as towards the back. Eventually tooth removal may be needed if the process has gone too far, but if caught early enough many people avoid the need for this.


Sometimes there are little or no signs you need a filling and only a dentist can pick this up when assessing you at your routine check-up. When symptoms do show, one of the most common is toothache and sensitivity in the mouth. These are not always a sign you need a filling and could be symptoms of another issue, so please do get checked. Some people find that their teeth and gums are naturally susceptible to problems and therefore could be at a greater risk of needing fillings. Fillings as a result of dental trauma (e.g. damage when playing sport) are not unheard of either. There are sometimes visual signs that you need a filling, including holes appearing in the teeth, or food which always get stuck between particular teeth. Small cavities will often prevent no symptoms so won’t necessarily pose a problem to you, but if identified by a dentist early enough can mean a far simpler procedure to remedy the problem.


If the tooth decay is not in advanced stages, a dentist should be able to remove the bacteria and decay that is present and place a filling to protect it. Sometimes the decay spreads to the root which results in the need for lengthier root canal treatment. If the decay is severe and past repair, then the best course of action is normally to remove the tooth and treat the area. Cavities don’t always need fillings – if spotted in the very early stages often a type of varnish can be applied which will inhibit decay and help the tooth to ‘regenerate’.


The main culprit of tooth decay is sugar and acids caused by eating and drinking. As sugar is present in nearly every food and drink it is virtually impossible to avoid, so we will all experience decay to some extent. However, choosing to limit foods or drink with high sugar and acidic content can help lower your chance of experiencing tooth decay aswell as adopting good oral hyenine procedures as professionally recommended.


There are different types of fillings available and these vary in terms of cost, style, purpose and longevity.

Amalgam is a very common type and is widely used. These fillings are normally hard wearing and last for a good length of time. They are often among the cheapest options of fillings.

Composite fillings have become more popular because of their seeming nature to blend into the mouth with the other teeth. However, they can be more expensive and often don’t last as long as other fillings especially if used in ‘high traffic’ areas of the mouth.

Porcelain / gold inlays are amongst the best type for duration, purpose and life expectancy, and are often used to fix more serious cases. These are however significantly more expensive than other types.


Now you know more about fillings, why not visit our general dentistry section to find out more information and other related treatments.  


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