A dental filling is a replacement for dental tissue that is missing. The most common reason for needing a filling is to repair a tooth damaged by decay. It is also used to repair a cracked or broken tooth and to improve cosmetic appearance. Today we mainly use composite fillings, a plastic material. The composite comes in different shades and the result should closely resemble the original tooth shape and colour. The expected duration of a filling is estimated to 15-20 years but is affected by local factors such as decay activity, grinding, saliva, the size of the filling and daily care routine.
Decay is caused by bacteria feeding on bits of food unreached by cleaning. It can become extensive before you notice it or feel any pain from it. If you let the decay spread, it will eventually reach the nerve and a root canal will become necessary.
Before the dentist can fill a cavity, all decayed tissue must be removed. It is of high importance that the area of the filling is completely dry to get the best result. In some cases, it is therefore necessary to put on a rubber dam to provide dry conditions. Sometimes the dentist also needs to place a formwork around the tooth to be able to recreate the right shape of the tooth. The tooth then gets prepared with a weak acid that makes the enamel able to bind to the composite through a layer of bonding. A curing lamp with light emitting diode makes the bonding and composite cure. Finally, the filling needs polishing to get the right height and surface.
If the tissue damage is extensive a crown, veneers, implants, or a bridge may be a better solution. Treatment alternatives will be discussed with you based on your specific circumstances.