A dental filling is a restorative dental procedure that is used to repair a damaged tooth. Tooth damage could occur from decay or other factors like trauma. Your dentist will recommend dental fillings when your cavities or enamel damage is not large enough to warrant a crown. Dental fillings can be direct or indirect.

The procedure for direct filing is relatively simple and can only take a single dental visit. This type of filling will involve removing the damaged part of the tooth, cleaning out the bacteria from tooth decay, and filling the hole with dental filling materials. Indirect fillings, on the other hand, are used for more extensive tooth damage. These fillings are created outside your mouth using a mold of the dental cavity and cemented into your mouth during a follow-up appointment.

Choosing the right dentist to perform your dental filling procedure is critical. At Washington Dental, we understand the impact that dental cavities or tooth damage can have on your oral health and well-being. We provide quality and long-lasting dental procedures for our patients in Lomita, CA.

What are Dental Fillings?

When you have a damaged or broken tooth, tooth extraction is a last resort. Your dentist will recommend dental procedures that can restore the structure and function of your teeth. Dental fillings are a basic procedure used to repair a tooth that is damaged by decay or trauma. While most people associate dental procedures with pain and discomfort, advancements in technology have allowed the use of anesthesia to ensure that the procedure is painless. You may be a good candidate for dental fillings under the following circumstances:

Sharp Pain or toothache

One of the obvious signs that you may need a dental filling is a severe toothache. A toothache may be a sign of tooth decay or a cavity. Before you begin to experience symptoms like sharp pain, the cavity will have caused severe damage to your tooth enamel. When you consult a dentist about severe pain when you chew your food, the dentist will examine the problematic tooth and recommend a dental filling.

There are many reasons why you could suffer from tooth decay, including poor oral hygiene. When you fail to brush and floss your teeth regularly, bacteria will accumulate around your teeth and gums. The bacteria release acids that damage your tooth enamel and cause a cavity.

Tooth Fracture

If you have a broken or fractured tooth, a dental filling may be a favorable option to repair the damage. A tooth fracture may be the result of weakened tooth enamel from decay or trauma. If you are involved in an accident that causes trauma to your teeth, you could suffer a broken tooth. Another cause of tooth fracture is tooth grinding or clenching. Although the damage from grinding teeth is gradual, your dentist will detect it during your checkups.

Lost or Damaged Filling

Dental fillings do not offer a lifetime service. Therefore, they may be prone to damage after prolonged use. You must follow the care tips given by your dentist after your dental filling procedure. Failure to follow these tips could increase the risk of damage. A damaged or cracked dental filling creates an opportunity for bacteria to enter your tooth and cause more damage. You may need another dental filling procedure if your filling is damaged or falls off.

Noticeable Damage

You will need to consult a dentist if you exhibit obvious signs of tooth damage. Some of the obvious signs of damage include cracked or chipped tooth enamel. Additionally, if your teeth tear dental floss when you clean them, you may have tooth damage. Your dentist will assess the condition of your tooth to determine the type of dental filling you need.

Tooth Sensitivity

When your tooth enamel wears down, you can experience sensitivity to cold or hot temperatures. Although sensitivity is not an automatic indicator that you have a cavity, it may be a sign that you need a thorough dental checkup. Sometimes, cavities may not be noticed until the dentist performs extensive procedures like a dental x-ray. Therefore, if your sensitivity does not resolve with brushing, you should book an appointment with your dentist.

Dental Filling Materials

Different materials are available for dental fillings. Before your dental filling procedure begins, the dentist will take you through all the alternatives and allow you to choose the material that suits your needs. Your choice of a dental filling procedure may be dependent on the following factors:

  • The location of the decayed or damaged tooth The location of the tooth that requires a dental filling is critical when you choose the material for your fillings. More visible teeth will require a filling that matches the natural color of your tooth enamel.
  • Aesthetic requirements. The material you choose for your fillings will significantly impact your smile. Therefore, your choice will be guided by your desired outlook.
  • Functional requirements. Different dental filling materials will offer you varying levels of strength and durability. If the tooth that needs a filling receives extensive pressure during chewing, you must choose a filling material that provides the necessary strength.
  • Your budget. Some dental fillings are more expensive than others. For example, you will spend more on gold fillings than you could on an amalgam filling. Therefore, you must choose a filling that fits within your budget. Dental fillings are a restorative procedure. Therefore, your insurance provider can cover the cost of the procedure.

The materials for dental fillings include:

Cast Gold

Dental fillings made of cast gold are a common option for a person with a high budget for the procedure. The benefits of gold-cast fillings include:

  • The fillings are durable and can last you for up to fifteen years.
  • The gold fillings withstand chewing forces.
  • Some patients find gold fillings aesthetically pleasing.

When choosing a gold cast for your fillings, you must be prepared for additional dental visits. Additionally, these fillings may cost up to ten times more than silver fillings.

Silver (Amalgam Fillings)

Silver fillings are the most commonly used type of filling. Many people choose this type of filling because of its durability and affordability. However, amalgam fillings are not attractive to the eye and cannot be used to fill the front teeth. Over time, the silver fillings can cause discoloration of the remaining natural tooth material.

Tooth-Colored Composite

If you seek a tooth-filling material that matches the natural color of your teeth, your dentist will recommend composite. This type of material comes in different shades to ensure that your smile looks as natural as possible. Composite fillings offer versatility that allows them to be used on cracks and broken teeth. Your dentist will remove less tooth structure when using a composite filling. This helps avoid destroying your tooth enamel.

Glass Ionomer

These types of dental fillings are made of acrylic and glass. The glass ionomer releases fluoride, which protects your teeth from further decay. However, the material is weaker than composite and more susceptible to damage.

Indirect Dental Fillings

Indirect fillings are made out of your mouth using molds from your mouth and are bonded to the damaged tooth. There are two main types of indirect fillings, including:


Dental inlays are tooth fillings designed to fit in a cavity caused by injury or tooth decay. Inlays are strong restorations and are considered a superior option compared to traditional tooth fillings. The dental inlays are made from materials like ceramic, composite, and porcelain.


Onlays are a type of dental filling used to restore teeth with decayed or damaged cusps. Dental onlays are used when your tooth structure cannot be restored using a normal filling. Onlays are larger and cover a larger surface area than inlays.

Dental Filling Procedure

The dental filling procedure involves many steps. The amount of time needed to complete the procedure will depend on the size of your cavity or tooth damage, the material you choose for your fillings, and the number of teeth that need fillings. The stages of dental filling include:

Administering Anesthesia

Your dentist will administer anesthesia to protect you from the pain and discomfort associated with dental fillings. Often, pain may be from underlying dental issues or a result of drilling done to remove the decayed part. If the tooth that requires filling has undergone a root canal, anesthesia may not be needed.

Removal of Tooth Decay

If you need a tooth filling due to damage from dental caries, the damaged part of the tooth must be removed before the placement of the filling material. Removal of the damaged tooth part will prevent the spread of bacteria that could cause further damage after the filling. If you have tooth decay that exposes the nerves, your dentist may recommend a root canal before filling the tooth.

Tooth Filling

When the decayed part of the tooth has been removed and the bacteria cleaned out, the dentist will place the filling material into the cavity or damaged part of the tooth. The filling material is then hardened with a special light that is directed at the repaired tooth. The procedure for placing the dental filling may vary slightly depending on the material you choose for the procedure.

Shaping and Polishing

After the placement of the dental fillings, your dentist could file down the tooth and shape it to mimic a natural tooth. The tooth-reshaping procedure after dental treatment will continue until you achieve a normal bite.

Care After a Dental Filling Procedure

Dental fillings help restore your tooth's structure. Although dental fillings can last you up to ten years, depending on the material you choose, you must follow the aftercare instructions given by your dentist to increase efficiency and prevent complications. Care tips after your dental filling procedure include:

Avoid Exerting pressure on the fillings.

One of the main factors that can damage your dental fillings and reduce their lifespan is excessive pressure exerted when you chew hard foods or grind your teeth. The essential factors you can consider when avoiding stress on your fillings include:

  • Chewing habits. The use of excessive force to bite down on your food could compromise your dental fillings.
  • Bite alignment. Misalignment of your bite will create uneven pressure on your fillings and damage them. If you notice changes in your bite, you should consult a dentist for a realignment.

Maintain Proper Oral Hygiene

Maintaining good oral hygiene practices plays a significant role in ensuring the success of your dental fillings. Proper oral hygiene involves:

  • Brushing and flossing regularly. Even after restoring the structure of your damaged tooth through a filling, you must brush your teeth at least twice a day. This helps prevent the accumulation of food particles and bacteria that could cause further tooth decay.
  • Use of antimicrobial mouthwash. Incorporating a fluoride or antimicrobial mouthwash into your oral hygiene routine will reduce bacteria accumulation in your mouth and strengthen your tooth structure.

Avoid Unhealthy Habits

For the success and longevity of your dental fillings, you must avoid habits that are harmful to your fillings and natural teeth. These habits could include:

  • Teeth clenching and grinding. Bruxism or teeth grinding can exert unnecessary force on your fillings and damage them. If you have teeth-grinding problems, you should consider wearing a mouth guard.
  • Being on non-food items. You can avoid damaging your dental fillings by using your teeth only for their intended purpose. Biting into ice cubes and using your teeth as tools can be harmful to the dental filling material.

Proper Diet

Your diet after a dental filling procedure will significantly impact the success of the procedure and how long the fillings can last before needing replacement. The proper diet to maintain proper oral health includes avoiding acidic and sugary foods. Sugary and acidic foods create a conducive environment for bacteria to thrive.

Instead, you can focus on fruits and vegetables, which provide essential nutrients to strengthen your teeth and protect your oral health.

Routine Dental Checks

Your dental checkups do not end when the structure and function of your tooth is restored with dental fillings. After your procedure, you must continue to make at least two dental appointments yearly.

During your dental checkups, the dentist can detect any signs of damage to your dental feelings and recommend a solution before further damage occurs. In addition to the detection of potential complications, your dental checkups would allow for professional teeth cleaning.

Professional teeth cleaning allows for the removal of tartar, plaque, and bacteria that accumulate around your natural teeth and fillings. This can support the longevity of your fillings.

Benefits of Dental Fillings

Dental fillings are a critical part of restorative dental care. The fillings help treat cavities and cracks in your tooth enamel for proper tooth function. The following are some of the benefits you accrue from choosing dental fillings as your tooth restoration option:

Dental Fillings Last For Years

Depending on the material you choose, a dental filling can last you for up to ten years. If you want a filling to last a long time, your dentist can guide you through the different materials and their durability. Since you must continue your routine dental checks after a dental filling, your dentist will be able to detect a problem with the fillings and recommend a replacement.

Enhances the Strength of your Natural Teeth

You will be considered a good candidate for a dental filling if tooth decay has damaged your tooth enamel and created a cavity. Tooth decay makes your teeth weaker and predisposes them to further damage. This makes it challenging for you to chew on hard foods for fear of your enamel cracking. The materials used for dental fillings strengthen your tooth, reduce the risk of fracturing, and restore its complete function.

Prevents the enlarging of Cavities

Before a dental filling, your dentist will remove the decayed part and clean out the bacteria in the cavity. Filling your tooth prevents further enlargement of the cavities and protects your tooth from further decay and damage. Therefore, tooth filling is more than a treatment procedure for cavities.

Restore Tooth Function

Tooth fillings are used for not only decayed teeth but also teeth that are damaged through physical trauma or tooth grinding. Depending on the extent of breakage or damage to the dental filling, it can be used for significant tooth repair, allowing your teeth to function normally. When the fillings restore the tooth enamel, you can avoid the dental restrictions that arise from having damaged teeth.

Fillings Improve the Appearance of Your Teeth

Dental complications are a common cause of anxiety for many people. Depending on the location of the damaged or decayed tooth and the extent of damage, the tooth’s appearance could distort your smile and cause you to be socially conscious. Dental fillings will help improve your smile by restoring the tooth’s appearance. For a more aesthetically pleasing smile, your dentist will recommend dental filling materials that resemble the color and shine of your natural teeth.

Dental Fillings can be Preventive

Depending on your specific need for a dental filling, This form of tooth restoration can be a preventive procedure. During your routine dental checkups, your dentist can identify a tooth crack or cavity before it worsens. Undergoing a dental filling procedure early enough helps prevent the need for larger fillings.

Additionally, dental filling materials could release fluoride into your mouth, which prevents the further growth of cavity-causing bacteria.

Complications of a Dental Filling Procedure

A dental filling is a great way to restore the function and outlook of a damaged tooth. Like other dental procedures, there are some risks associated with undergoing a dental filling procedure. Common complications that could arise after a dental filling procedure include:

Tooth Sensitivity

Following a tooth-filling procedure, you could experience tooth sensitivity. Your teeth may be sensitive to sweet foods, hot and cold foods, or drinks. Tooth sensitivity after a dental filling will resolve itself after several weeks. You should avoid foods and drinks that trigger sensitivity during this time. If your tooth sensitivity does not resolve after a while, you may need to consult your dentist.

Toothache and Pain Around the Fillings

You may experience different forms and degrees of pain after a dental filling procedure. If your tooth filling interferes with your bite, you could experience pain when you bite down or chew hard foods. This type of pain begins when the anesthesia administered during the procedure wears off.

Another form of pain that you could experience after a dental filling is a throbbing toothache. This could be a sign of a deep-rooted infection. If the pain does not resolve, you may need a more extensive procedure, like a root canal.

Allergic Reactions

Some people are allergic to silver fillings, which are a commonly used type of filling. This results from mercury or the metal components of the filling. The symptoms of amalgam allergies may be similar to those experienced by a normal skin allergy and could include itching and rashes.

Deteriorating Fillings

Your dental fillings could chip, crack, or wear away from the constant pressure of teeth clenching, chewing, and grinding. When a filling deteriorates, it can create a space for bacteria to enter your tooth and cause further damage.

Although you may not be able to identify dental filling deterioration, your dentist will notice the damage at your dental checkups. A damaged dental filling should be treated immediately after the problem is discovered to avoid further complications.

Find expert Lomita Dental Services Near Me

Dental fillings are a common procedure used to repair teeth damaged by tooth decay, cavities, or fractures. Undergoing a dental filling procedure helps restore the shape and function of your tooth. Your dentist can recommend a filling if they notice the onset of cavities or decay in their routine checkups.

Additionally, you may undergo this procedure if the decay has caused severe damage to your tooth. Dentists advise that you fill your tooth immediately when a cavity or damage is noticed to prevent further damage. There are different materials available for dental fillings, and your dentist will guide you through choosing the material that meets your requirements in terms of appearance and budget.

Common materials for tooth fillings could include gold, amalgam, and ceramic. Depending on the extent of your tooth damage, you could be a candidate for direct or indirect fillings. Your dental filling procedure can take a single visit or multiple appointments, depending on the type of filling you need.

If you seek safe and reliable dental services in Lomita, CA, you will benefit from our expert care at Washington Dental. Consulting with our reliable dentists is critical to minimizing potential complications and improving the outcome of the procedure. Contact us at 310-326-5183 for a consultation.