Healthy teeth and a beautiful smile are wonderful things to have. It takes effort to achieve and maintain both. Cavities and tooth decay are among the most common factors that compromise the health of our teeth. Fortunately, dental fillings are an efficient solution to repairing teeth that have been affected by cavities and decay.

Washington Dental is a well-known and highly regarded dental care facility that serves the residents of Lomita. If you have been affected by tooth decay, we can provide you with the most suitable dental fillings while ensuring your comfort and convenience, and help you restore your smile once again.

Dental Fillings

A dental filling is a dentistry treatment used to replace tooth material that has been damaged by decay. This restorative dentistry treatment can be used to treat minor tooth cracks, avoid potential tooth decay, or repair a tooth's damaged surface and restore its functionality and original appearance.

The most typical uses for dental fillings are to restore fractured teeth, as well as to repair teeth that have deteriorated over time owing to harmful habits like tooth grinding. Cavities can be repaired by dental fillings, preventing them from developing into more serious tooth issues in the future.

Do You Need a Tooth Filling?

Your dentist is the only person who can tell you if you need a filling. He or she will thoroughly evaluate the condition of your teeth, take X-rays and figure out what treatment needs to be administered to repair your damaged tooth.

However, some symptoms indicate the presence of cavities or damages that may require a tooth filling.

They include:

  • Toothaches or dull pain when chewing
  • Sensitivity
  • Your flossing string tears when flossing a particular tooth
  • A chipped or rough tooth
  • Dark spots on your tooth
  • Food getting stuck between certain teeth frequently
  • Missing or broken tooth fillings
  • Bad breath despite practicing good oral hygiene

What Happens If You Do Not Get Dental Fillings?

Disregarding your dentist's suggestion for a dental filling might lead to greater problems and more expensive treatments in the future.

A root canal procedure will probably be required if the dental decay progresses to the inner of the tooth. Root canal treatment extracts the infected pulp from the tooth, and the tooth will be sealed with a crown to protect it from further damage.

If you do not seek treatment, the infection may spread to the rest of your mouth, invade your circulatory system, and have a detrimental impact on your entire body. The longer you wait to fill a cavity, the more time it will take to treat, the more intrusive, expensive, and unpleasant it will be.

It is therefore critical to visit your dentist yearly so that they can locate and fix the cavities as early as possible.

Types of Dental Fillings

There are several types of dental fillings. Your dentist will recommend the best dental filling according to the condition of your cavity. These dental fillings include:

  • Amalgam dental fillings
  • Composite resin dental fillings
  • Gold
  • Ceramic
  • Glass ionomers

Amalgam Dental Fillings

Amalgam dental fillings are silver-colored materials used to repair dental cavities caused by decay. They are easy to deal with for dentists and inexpensive for patients.

Dental amalgam is made up of liquid mercury and a powdered mixture of tin, silver, and copper. The mercury makes up around half of the weight of the dental amalgam.

The chemical characteristics of the mercury enable it to combine with the metals and bind them together to create an amalgam. Because of their silver-like appearance, dental amalgam fillings are commonly referred to as "silver fillings," however this name is not encouraged since it does not accurately describe the components in amalgam.

Amalgam dental fillings are an ideal choice for larger cavities due to their longevity. They are also great for cavities in the back teeth such as molars. Molars are the most utilized teeth for chewing. Silver amalgam fillings make the most ideal fillers for these teeth because they can endure chewing forces.

Once your dentist applies it to the tooth, it hardens fast. This makes it desirable if the filling is being done on a difficult-to-reach tooth or if the procedure is being carried out on a child. An amalgam filling typically lasts 10 or more years.

Advantages of Dental Amalgam

Dental amalgam is the most affordable sort of filler material. They are more resistant to breaking than other forms of fillings since the metals are tough and durable.

These types of dental fillings are also beneficial to individuals with a high probability of tooth decay, and in situations where moisture renders other elements, such as resins, difficult to adhere to the tooth.

Potential Risks of Dental Amalgam

Dental amalgam poses some health risks since it contains elemental mercury.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, low quantities of mercury in the amalgam are released as a vapor, which can be inhaled.

The neurotoxic effects of mercury vapor may be sensitive in developing brain systems in fetuses and infants. Expectant mothers and caregivers of children under the age of six should speak with their dentist if they are concerned about the lack of clinical data on long-term health consequences.

Although the available research does not suggest that dental amalgam exposure causes significant health consequences in the overall population, mercury exposure may pose a greater risk to human health to the groups of persons identified below, who would be more prone to potential mercury-related adverse effects.

  • Pregnant women or women planning to get pregnant, as well as their growing fetuses.
  • Lactating mothers and their
  • Children, particularly those under the age of six.
  • Those with a history of neurological disorders.
  • Patients with kidney problems.
  • Patients with increased sensitivity to mercury or other components of dental amalgam

Some people are allergic to mercury or the other elements of dental amalgam or have a sensitivity to them. Oral lesions may develop in these people as a result of a dental amalgam filling.

You should avoid amalgam fillings if you are allergic to any of the elements used in dental amalgam. Other treatment alternatives will be recommended by your dentist.

Composite Resin Dental Fillings

Composite resins are also known as tooth-colored fillings. These are the most popular alternative to amalgam dental fillings. Because of their appearance in color, they are commonly referred to as white fillings.

They are composed of an acrylic resin that has been strengthened with powdered glass filler. The composite hardens instantly under a blue light that your dentist will use when filling your tooth.

In small to medium-sized fillings that endure the moderate force from chewing, composite resins provide excellent resilience and longevity. They are suitable for both front and back teeth. They are also a good option for patients who want their fillings to appear more natural.

For aesthetic purposes, patients prefer tooth-colored fillings to amalgam fillings. Patients tend to choose fillings that blend in with the natural color of their teeth.

However, composite fillings are costlier and require frequent replacement compared to amalgam dental fillings. Composite fillings also take more time to place than amalgam fillings do. This is because the procedure requires the teeth to be clean and dry as the cavity is being filled.

Advantages of Composite Dental Fillings

  • You can get fillings that blend in with the rest of your teeth
  • They are strong
  • Allows for a small portion of the tooth for placement

Disadvantages of Composite Resin Fillings

  • If there is moisture, bonding to the tooth may be compromised.
  • It can blend in with your teeth, rendering removal challenging without damaging your natural tooth structure.
  • Because it has lower durability than dental amalgam, it is more likely to fracture and require replacement.
  • Placement costs are higher.

Gold Fillings

Gold dental fillings are made of a combination of metals such as gold and copper. This dental filling is known to be the most durable since it can last for 20 years or more, but they are also the most expensive type of dental fillings.

Gold fillings also take more than one dental visit since impressions must be made at a dental laboratory.

Even though gold fillings were used in dentistry for over a thousand years due to their durability, they are no longer widely used. Nowadays, it is difficult to find a dentist who will recommend gold fillings.


Ceramic tooth fillings are made of porcelain and are both long-lasting and aesthetically pleasing. They are pricier than composite resin fillings, however, they are made to match the rest of your teeth and are resistant to discoloration and tooth degradation.

Glass Ionomer Filling

These fillings made of glass and acrylic acids are ideal for children whose teeth are still developing. They emit fluoride that could safeguard teeth from decay. Unfortunately, they are substantially weaker than composite dental fillings.

They are also susceptible to fractures and can only last a few years.

Advantages of Glass Ionomer Filling

  • Colors that blend in with the neighboring teeth are available.
  • During placement, only a small amount of tooth structure is removed.

Disadvantages of Glass Ionomer Fillings

  • Large restorations are not possible with this material.
  • Not as long-lasting as dental amalgam.

The procedure of getting dental fillings

The dentist will first numb the region around the tooth to be repaired using a local anesthetic. The damaged region will then be removed with a drill, a laser, or an air abrasion tool.

The instrument chosen is determined by the dentist's level of comfort, experience, and investment in the tool, as well as the location and amount of the decay.

The region will then be probed or tested by your dentist to see if all of the decay has been extracted. After the decay has been cleared, the dentist will clean the cavity to remove any bacteria and debris in preparation for the filling.

Following the placement of the filling and the hardening of the tooth, the dentist will make any necessary changes to the tooth to complete the treatment. Your dentist might do a bite impression to ensure that your teeth are properly aligned.

Your tooth will be restored to its natural shape and function when this dental filling process is completed successfully. The numbness will usually go away after a few hours, so do not eat or drink anything in the meantime.

When the fillings are first installed, sensitivity to heat and cold is usual; however, it will fade as the completed tooth adjusts to the filling. Follow-up appointments are often necessary to monitor the tooth's progression with the filling.

Can a Dental Filling Procedure Go Wrong?

It is difficult to tell if you have had a bad dental filling unless you have your teeth examined by a dentist who can confirm it. However, the following are some indicators of bad dental fillings:

  • Uneven fillings that protrude beyond the tooth's edge, causing an "overhang"
  • Big fillings, which may show that the tooth should have been restored with a crown instead
  • Small particles of food become trapped around the edge of the filling or between neighboring teeth. This is a concern since the trapped food will eventually decompose, causing tooth rot.
  • The mixture may not adhere effectively to the tooth if the filling has not been properly prepared. This could cause the tooth filling to break off, allowing further decay and infection. This is referred to as secondary decay, and it can lead to the need for more costly treatment.
  • If the edges of a filling are not smoothed down or formed properly, this might cause toothache and impact nearby teeth or gums.

After a filling, your bite may change. While this is a well-known side effect of the procedure, if the filling is made "too high," it can make it impossible to chew, as well as create pain.

An overly large filling might cause discomfort and make it hard to clean the tooth properly. The patient will then be susceptible to further decay, prompting more fillings or other treatment options.

 A big tooth filling also weakens the tooth, and if the filling fails, the tooth's structure may be affected to the point where root canal treatment and a crown are required.

Potential Risks and Complications

Dental filling complications are rare, but any dental procedure has potential risks and complications, which can be significant in some situations. Complications may arise in the treatment or during your healing process.

Potential risks include:

  • An allergic reaction to local anesthesia
  • Nerve injury during the procedure
  • Mouth injury
  • A cavity may form around the dental filling after the procedure
  • The filling can expand and contract, damaging both the filling and the tooth
  • More comprehensive operations are required, particularly if the cavity is huge. This may occur if a large portion of the tooth structure is extracted or if the nerve is exposed. If the tooth structure is lost, your dentist may replace that with a crown or if the decay has reached the pulp tissue, a root canal procedure may be necessary
  • Injury to other teeth during the treatment
  • The affected tooth may become sensitive to extreme temperature

Reducing the Risk of Complications

You can lower your chances of developing complications if you:

  • Practice good oral hygiene before and after treatment and even during your recovery period
  • Let your dentist know if you are breastfeeding or if you are or think you might be pregnant
  • Alert your dentist right away if you have any complications after your procedure such as fever or pain
  • If you have any allergies, make sure everyone on your medical team is aware of them, especially if your dentist uses metal fillings
  • Take your medications as prescribed

Cost of Dental Fillings

Cost is dependent on a patient's dental insurance. Most dental insurance plans, in general, cover a percentage of your dental care expenses. Your insurer will likely cover the cost of the more expensive filling operations up to a certain level, after which you will be responsible for the rest.

Most oral insurance plans cover composite cavity fillings up to the cost of an amalgam filling, after which the patient is responsible for the rest. If you have dental insurance, you should check your policy to see what is covered.

Other factors can also influence the cost of dental filling.

The number of teeth that require fillings. The more teeth that require treatment, the more expensive it will be.

The type of teeth that need to be filled. Cavity fillings in molars or other difficult-to-reach areas may be more expensive if more time or equipment is required.

Size of the cavity. If the cavity is particularly big or the dental decay is severe, more material and effort may be required. The expense of the filling may rise as a result.

Any other issues. If your tooth or gums are infected, you may need several dental appointments and treatments, which may cost you more money.

Dental treatment expenses vary depending on where you live.

Your dentist.  Each dental practice has its own set of pricing and payment options.

Taking Care of Your Dental Fillings

Here are some helpful tips on what you should do and not do after undergoing a dental filling procedure and how to know if you need to go back to see your dentist about any discomfort you may experience:

White composite fillings cure quickly when exposed to blue light after a filling procedure. Because the filling hardens immediately, you will be able to eat or drink right after the treatment.

Metal dental fillings, however, do not solidify right away, thus dentists frequently advise to wait at least 24 hours before taking solid foods after a dental filling.

You should also wait until the local anesthetic wears off before attempting to eat to avoid biting your cheek, tongue, or lips.

Following a filling, it is advisable to avoid hard or sticky meals for at least two weeks. If you have dental sensitivity, you may find that avoiding hot or cold drinks and meals helps.

You do not have to wait to brush your teeth. Brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing once a day is still recommended.

Among the most prevalent causes of pain is a dental filling that is too high. Although your dentist will do their utmost to get the dental filling height just right, you may find that the filling does not feel quite right as you move your jaw, speak, or chew.

Make an appointment with your dentist to have the filling polished or reshaped. This is critical because a filling that is higher than the rest of your teeth is more likely to break.

For up to three weeks after a tooth filling, you may have sensitivity to cold or hot food or beverages. The stress of chewing on the new tooth filling may also cause increased sensitivity, especially if the filling was done on a deeper cavity. You can use toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth to prevent sensitivity after a dental filling.

Your dentist will also suggest that you avoid meals that are extremely hot or cold, and that you chew your food on the opposite side of your mouth for the first several weeks. Please call your dentist if the sensitivity persists after two weeks.

Some patients may suffer pain in the teeth next to the tooth that got filled. This is quite normal and indicates that nothing is amiss with your teeth. Most often, the tooth that has been filled is simply relaying signals to the teeth next to it. Within a week or two, you should notice a reduction in pain.

If you notice your teeth are very sensitive after a tooth filling, talk to your dentist about other dental filling alternatives. Metal fillings affect different people in different ways. Your dentist can assess your situation and use additional prophylactic measures, such as a base or a liner.

Find a Dentist Near Me

If you have a cavity, you must have it treated as soon as possible. Our wonderful team of dental specialists at Washington Dental can treat patients of all ages for any existing issues. We will help you prevent future dental problems and keep your teeth in excellent condition. Call our office in Lomita at 310-362-5183 to schedule an appointment and have your dental fillings today.