Fillings

Cavity.If you have never had a cavity, congratulations! If you have had one, you are not alone. About 78% of us have had at least one cavity by the time we reach age 17, according to a 2000 report by the U.S. Surgeon General. Fortunately there's a time-tested treatment for cavities: the dental filling.

Fillings do just what the name implies — seal a small hole in your tooth, i.e., a cavity, caused by decay. This prevents the decay (a bacteria-induced infection) from spreading further into your tooth and, if untreated, continue on to the sensitive inner pulp (nerve) tissue located in the root canal. Should that happen, you would need root canal treatment.

There are a variety of materials used to fill teeth these days, but the process of filling a tooth is similar regardless. The first step is a clinical exam of the tooth with x-rays, to determine the extent of the decay. Then the decayed area of the tooth is removed, usually with a handheld instrument such as a dental drill. Of course, your tooth will be anesthetized first, so you won't feel any discomfort. If you normally feel nervous about receiving numbing injections, it's possible that taking an anti-anxiety medication or using nitrous oxide can help you feel more relaxed. After removing the decay, the remaining tooth structure is roughened or “etched” with a mildly acidic solution; then translucent cement is applied to bond the tooth and the filling material together.

Types of Fillings

There are two broad categories of dental fillings: metal fillings and tooth-colored fillings. Each may offer particular advantages and disadvantages in certain situations.

Metal Fillings

Metal Filling.

Metal Fillings.Amalgam — The classic “silver” filling in use for more than a century, dental amalgam is actually an alloy made up of mercury, silver, tin, and copper. The mercury combines with the other metals in the amalgam to make it stable and safe. These fillings are strong and inexpensive, but also quite noticeable. They also require relatively more tooth preparation (drilling) than other types.

Cast Gold — Among the most expensive restorative dental materials, cast gold combines gold with other metals for a very strong, long-lasting filling. It is also highly noticeable, which can be considered a plus or minus.

Tooth-Colored Fillings

Tooth-Colored Filling.

Tooth-Colored Fillings.Composite — A popular choice for those who don't want their fillings to show, composite is a mixture of plastic and glass, which actually bonds to the rest of the tooth. Composites are more expensive than amalgam fillings, and the newer materials can hold up almost as long. Less drilling of the tooth is necessary when placing composite as compared to amalgam.

Porcelain — These high-tech dental ceramics are strong, lifelike, and don't stain as composites can. They are sometimes more expensive than composites because they may require the use of a dental laboratory or specialized computer-generated technology. While considered the most aesthetic filling, they can also, because of their relatively high glass content, be brittle.

Glass Ionomer — Made of acrylic and glass powders, these inexpensive, translucent fillings have the advantages of blending in pretty well with natural tooth color and releasing small amounts of fluoride to help prevent decay. They generally don't last as long as other restorative materials.

Watch Tooth-Colored Fillings Video

What to Expect After Getting a Filling

The numbness caused by your local anesthesia should wear off within a couple of hours. Until then, it's best to avoid drinking hot or cold liquids, and eating on the side of your mouth with the new filling. Some sensitivity to hot and cold is normal in the first couple of weeks after getting a tooth filled. If it persists beyond that, or you have any actual pain when biting, it could signal that an adjustment to your filling needs to be made. Continue to brush and floss as normal every day, and visit the dental office at least twice per year for your regular checkups and cleanings. And remember, tooth decay is a very preventable disease; with good oral hygiene and professional care, you can make your most recent cavity your last!

Related Articles

Tooth-Colored Fillings - Dear Doctor Magazine

The Natural Beauty of Tooth-Colored Fillings The public's demand for aesthetic tooth-colored (metal free) restorations (fillings) together with the dental profession's desire to preserve as much natural tooth structure as possible, has led to the development of special “adhesive” tooth-colored restorations... Read Article

Tooth Decay - Dear Doctor Magazine

Tooth Decay — A Preventable Disease Tooth decay is the number one reason children and adults lose teeth during their lifetime. Yet many people don't realize that it is a preventable infection. This article explores the causes of tooth decay, its prevention, and the relationship to bacteria, sugars, and acids... Read Article

Tooth Decay - Dear Doctor Magazine

Tooth Decay – How To Assess Your Risk Don't wait for cavities to occur and then have them fixed — stop them before they start. Modern dentistry is moving towards an approach to managing tooth decay that is evidence-based — on years of accumulated, systematic, and valid scientific research. This article discusses what you need to know to assess your risk and change the conditions that lead to decay... Read Article

Contact Us

Send Us an Email

Testimonials

What Our Clients Say About Us

  • "Dr. Katz is attentive to his patients' needs, always careful to ensure the patient's comfort...It's a friendly office with impeccable service. They will take good care of you!
    Over the years, Dr. Katz and his team have provided me with an extremely high level of care and personal sensitivity. He has earned my trust."
    Jim Velleco - Marblehead, MA
  • "I have had a lot of dental work done during my life--orthodontia, fillings, crowns, implants, root canals, a bridge--and Dr. Katz is by far the best dentist I've ever seen. In addition to being a superior craftsman with a lot of experience, Dr. Katz is attentive to his patients' needs, always careful to ensure the patient's comfort. His staff, several of whom have been working with him for decades, is likewise excellent. It's a friendly office with impeccable service. They will take good care of you!"
    Sandra Doherty
  • "Awesome Doctor and team - have been going to Dr. Katz's practice for over 20 years and the professionalism, care and attention are superb. They are warm, welcoming, caring and a pleasure to go to. Highly recommend them - with a warm smile!!!
    The professionalism, care and attention are superb. They are warm, welcoming, caring and a pleasure to go to."
    Paul Romano
  • "I travel from Woburn to Salem for my dental needs because there is no other dentist that I trust more than Dr. Katz. I am impressed with his professionalism and drive to stay on top of the best dental techniques. He and his team treat my wife and me like family. I highly recommend Dr. Katz!
    There is no other dentist that I trust more than Dr. Katz. I am impressed with his professionalism and drive to stay on top of the best dental techniques. He and his team treat my wife and me like family."
    Rob Dealy
  • "It’s not “Cheers” and they don’t serve beer, but it is a place “where everybody knows your name.” They know your family, too. And you know theirs. After 25 years here, for me it’s not just about having clean teeth. It’s about catching up with old friends, sharing what’s going on and caring about each other."
    Eugenia Fountain - Salem, ma
  • "They are thorough, careful and up to date on new techniques. One never feels like a "number" because there is very little staff turnover...We recommend them without hesitation.
    If you're looking for top-notch customer service, a welcoming staff, and valuable take-home knowledge, make an appointment with Dr. Katz. My mouth and I have had nothing but positive experiences in his care."
    Mike Briddon - Swampscott, MA
  • "Dr. Katz makes me feel like I'm the most important patient he has. He is calm, relaxed, informative, patient and gentle...I have heard nothing but positive feedback from the people I've sent
    Thank you for over 20 years of compassionate and technically excellent dental care."
    Christine Kowal - Swampscott, MA
  • "We come from Wakefield to see Dr. Katz. He has been our family dentist for the last 10 years and my husbands dentist since he was a kid. Today my very anxious 7 year old had to have a tooth pulled and Dr. Katz did a wonderful job at making him comfortable. My son got through the experience with flying colors and no tantrums. We would highly recommend him as a dentist!"
    Nicole Jennings
  • "My husband and I are long term patients of this practice because of the trust it has earned with us over time. They are thorough, careful and up to date on new techniques. One never feels like a "number" because there is very little staff turnover .....clearly a plus. We recommend them without hesitation!"
    Michelle Genereux

Our Location

Find us on the map

Hours of Operation

Our Regular Schedule

Monday:

8:00 am-6:00 pm

Tuesday:

12:00 pm-8:00 pm

Wednesday:

8:00 am-5:00 pm

Thursday:

8:00 am-4:00 pm

Friday:

Closed

Saturday:

Closed

Sunday:

Closed