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How do dentists fill cavities

Cavities are one of the most common dental issues. Almost everyone gets a cavity, sooner or later. As long as you see your dentist regularly, most cavities are easy to fill before they develop into much larger problems. If your doctor has told you that you need to get a filling, you might have a few questions. Keep reading to learn what a filling is, what it’s made of, and what to expect from your filling.


What is a dental filling?

A dental filling is an artificial substance that’s packed into a cavity in your tooth. The presence of a filling protects your weakened, pitted enamel from bacteria. It can prevent the spread of decay as well as preventing infection. A dental filling can help prevent your simple cavity from developing into a much more serious problem, like a root canal or broken tooth.

What are fillings made of?

A dental filling could be made of several different materials. The most common dental filling material in the US is a mercury amalgam filling. It’s falling in popularity, however, as more and more people move away from even trace amounts of mercury in their body. Fillings can also be made of gold, porcelain, or even plastic or resin. The type of filling you’ll have will depend on your budget and what’s right for where your cavity is located. Porcelain fillings are among the most natural-looking, but they’re not the strongest option. They’re often not suitable for your biting surfaces.

How long do fillings take?

Time will vary depending on the placement of your filling, type of filling placed, etc. However, most fillings take 15-25 minutes. This includes drilling the tooth properly to fit the filling, and placing the filling itself. If you have multiple fillings to be placed in a single visit, count on budgeting that much time for every filling. While some steps can be completed once for all (for example, anesthesia will typically last long enough that it can be given at once for multiple dental fillings) many have to be done separately.

How long do fillings last?

The longevity of your filling depends on a great deal of factors. Typically, you have a lifespan of 8-12 years per filling. Some types of fillings tend to the higher end of the spectrum, like amalgam fillings, and others tend to have a shorter average lifespan. If you take good care of your teeth, wear bite guards, and avoid activities that could result in breaking your teeth, you wind up getting the most out of your fillings. Some people have fillings that last significantly longer than the average lifespan.

How much do fillings cost?

Your dentist can let you know how much to expect per filling. Estimates depend on what material is being used, as well as how many fillings you have. More “tooth colored” fillings cost more. You can get silver amalgam fillings for between $50 and $150, on average. Resin fillings are $90 to $250 on average. Your dentist is the only one who can tell you what it will cost for your fillings.

Dental fillings are difficult to estimate. You can make choices to bring the price down, or you can prioritize natural looks. Having your cavities filled is essential to preventing worse problems down the road. How you go about filling it in is between you and your dentist—ask them for specific information.