What Is a Tooth Filling?
A tooth filling, or dental filling, is an artificial substance used to fill holes or gaps in teeth due to decay, damage, or fading enamel. It’s one of the most common dental procedures in the country.
The main reason that this procedure is completed is to address dental caries or cavities. Cavities are permanently damaged areas on the hard, outer surface of the teeth that develop into tiny openings or holes. Cavities are the most common chronic disease in the entire country, affecting over 80% of Americans by the time they reach their mid-30s.
What Causes Cavities
A cavity is caused by tooth decay, a long-term process that occurs over time. This damage is caused by plaque formation on the tooth, which is a clear and sticky film.
Plaque forms from eating a lot of sugars and starches. When not properly brushed off the tooth’s surface, bacteria quickly begin to feed, leaving plaque behind. Unbrushed plaque can harden into tartar, which creates a shield for bacteria and is a lot harder to remove.
Acids in plaque remove enamel from the outside of a tooth, which causes tiny holes and openings to form. The next layer, known as dentin, is much softer than enamel and less resistant to the acid in plaque. Dentin is filled with small tubes that communicate directly with the nerve of a tooth, which is why a cavity often causes pain and sensitivity.
Everyone is at risk of developing a cavity, but eating sugary foods that cling to your tooth can enhance the likelihood of developing one. Additionally, inadequate brushing, not getting enough fluoride, or frequent snacking can affect the risk of getting dental caries.
Heartburn and acid reflux can also affect the teeth because frequent acid build-up in the mouth can quickly wear away the enamel and increase the risk of a cavity forming.
Cavities occur most commonly in the back of the mouth, aka the molars. This is because the grooves on top of these teeth hold onto food and are more difficult to scrub clean than the smoother teeth at the front of the mouth.
How Does a Tooth Filling Work?
Before a filling is performed, a dentist numbs the gums around the affected tooth through a local anesthetic injection. Then, the decaying tooth areas are removed, and the tooth is cleaned, washed, and dried.
The artificial filling is inserted into the affected area, and the tooth’s original shape is restored. You’ll likely be asked to bite down hard to see if the filling is comfortable, and if not, the dentist can sand down the filling accordingly to make it feel natural within your mouth.
What are Fillings Made Of?
Dental fillings can be made of all sorts of artificial substances, and determining the best type of filling is usually based on location, the extent of decay, and cost.
Tooth-colored composite fillings are the most natural-looking, essentially restoring the original look of the tooth. The only problem is that they aren’t as durable as alternatives and typically need to be replaced every five years.
Gold and silver fillings are more durable, though they don’t give as much of a natural look. Additionally, these tend to be a bit pricier when compared to composite fillings and often require that more of the tooth be removed to fill.
Finally, porcelain or ceramic fillings are the most durable, usually lasting more than 15 years. They’re also resistant to staining compared to tooth-colored composites. However, they can cost just as much as gold fillings.
Do I Need a Tooth Filling?
Cavities are sometimes extremely tiny, and they’re often unnoticeable to the untrained eye. This emphasizes the importance of dentist visits every six months to snag a cavity before it becomes too severe to treat with a filling.
You may have a cavity and therefore require a dental filling if you’re noticing some of the following symptoms:
- Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold food and drink
- Bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth
- Redness inside or around the mouth
- Toothache or mouth pain, especially in the molars (back teeth)
- Bleeding gums
What Happens If I Don’t Get a Filling?
It’s important to get a tooth filling as soon as possible if you know you have a cavity. If left untreated, a decaying tooth might become too severe to be alleviated with a filling.
Cavities can continue to grow bigger and bigger as the tooth decays. Eventually, they can reach the nerve of a tooth, leading to excessive pain that requires either a root canal or extraction.
A root canal procedure involves removing the inflamed or infected pulp inside of the tooth, then carefully disinfecting it. It’s then filled and sealed, and you’ll feel good as new! No need to be concerned if you get prescribed a root canal. Modern canal procedures are nothing like they used to be, and they’re very similar to a simple filling.
If a root canal is impossible, the infected tooth may need to be extracted. Tooth extraction involves removing the tooth from the gum socket. Often, a dental implant is used to replace the missing tooth and restore the integrity of the mouth.
Alternatives to Dental Fillings
There really is no other way to fix a cavity other than a dental filling. But you and your dentist can take preventative measures to reduce the risk of developing a cavity and, therefore, the need for a tooth filling.
For one, using toothpaste with fluoride is a great way to avoid cavities. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that makes the enamel more resistant to acid attacks caused by plaque and tartar. Most tap water systems are fortified with fluoride, but nothing beats the protection that regular brushing can bring to your mouth.
Regular dental cleaning is essential because tartar can only be removed by special tools that oral hygienists are trained to use. Plus, they can recognize cavities early on to fill them in right away, which can nip the problem in the bud before it develops into something more severe.
If a cavity is caught early enough, a fluoride treatment might help restore the tooth’s enamel and even reverse a cavity in the beginning stages. Professional fluoride treatments contain more fluoride than you’d find in tap water and mouthwashes, so they need to be done at a dentist’s office.
Some foods are better for your teeth than others. Foods like fresh fruits and vegetables increase saliva flow, while unsweetened coffee and tea can help wash away food particles. Avoid sugary foods like candy, which can increase sugar coatings on the teeth and enhance acid breakdown.
Cost of a Tooth Filling
The cost of a tooth filling depends entirely on the material that’s being used to fill, as well as insurance coverage. The average price for a composite white filling out of pocket is around $201. Gold and porcelain fillings will cost much more, usually approximately $400–$1,500. And keep in mind these prices are per tooth. So if you have multiple cavities, this can add up.
These steep price tags are inaccessible for many people. Considering that over 33% of Americans do not have dental insurance, a large number of people are barred from receiving emergency dental care purely because of cost.
How To Afford a Tooth Filling
Flossy is an affordable alternative to insurance that offers dental care for up to 50% off. No membership fees, no monthly premiums, and no deductible. It’s a pay-as-you-go service where you’ll only pay for the services you receive without waiting to see a provider.
While the average white filling costs over $200, Flossy’s Price is just $99, letting you get the care you need without the stress and anxiety of insurance premiums and insane out-of-pocket down payments. Plus, you can book and manage your appointments through an easy-to-use app, eliminating the headache of scheduling at a traditional office.
With such low prices, you might be thinking that the quality of care diminishes as well. But our providers are vetted based on rigorous criteria, including:
- Utilization of modern technology and technique
- Peer recommendations
- Graduate degrees from top tier dental programs
- Experience and knowledge
- Four stars or more on popular review sites like Google or Yelp
It’s care you can trust, and it’s care you can afford. Book an appointment with top dentists in your area today.
Get the Dental Care You Deserve
Tooth fillings are a common dental procedure that uses an artificial substance to restore tooth appearance and integrity due to a cavity. Cavities are small holes in the tooth caused by plaque build-up from sugars and starches on the tooth’s surface that has gone untreated.
Fillings can be made of gold, silver, porcelain, or a composite material that looks just like the tooth itself. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the best filling usually relies on dentist recommendation and cost.
Untreated cavities can worsen and eventually reach the nerve of a tooth, causing excruciating pain. This may require a root canal or tooth extraction, which is both more costly and more inundating when compared to a filling.
That’s why getting care fast is essential, and the price shouldn’t be a barrier between you and proper oral health.
No insurance? No problem.
Flossy is a pay-as-you-go alternative to dental insurance that can save you up to 50% on oral procedures such as tooth fillings so that you no longer need to stress about costs.
That’ll give you a pretty good reason to show off your new smile.
Cavities: Tooth Decay, Toothache, Causes, Prevention & Treatment | Cleveland Clinic.
Cavities/tooth decay - Symptoms and causes | The Mayo Clinic
Fluoride | MouthHealthy.org.
What is a Root Canal? | American Association of Endodontists