Filling you in on fillings

’Tis the season of treats - but, as always, the team at Oral Health are here to help protect your teeth. This month we’re talking fillings and how you can avoid them this snowy season.


Fillings are used to repair a cavity in your tooth. The material used will depend on the clinical need and your dentist will recommend the best type for your particular case.

The most common type of filling is dental amalgam, which is made from a mixture of different metals. Dental amalgam fillings are often used on your back teeth as they're hard-wearing. If you need a filling on one of your more visible front teeth, your dentist will likely suggest a white or tooth-coloured filling. These are either made of composite (a resin and glass mixture) or glass ionomer (which is powdered glass, which forms a chemical bond with your tooth and may release fluoride that helps to prevent further decay).

How do I know if I need a dental filling?

The most common symptom of the need for a filling is toothache. If you are suffering, please see your dentist as soon as possible. The sooner a cavity is treated, the easier it is to treat and the less you will suffer.

What are the main reasons for needing a filling?

These are:

1. Tooth decay

This is the most common reason for needing a filling. Bacteria can feed on the sugars and starches left on your teeth by food or drink, causing plaque to form. The acids in plaque soften and then dissolve your enamel (the hard-protective coating on your teeth). This causes tiny holes which then grow bigger. The best way to avoid decay is to follow a good oral health routine - you can read our advice on interdental cleaning, cutting down on sugar and taking care of your teeth at Christmas.

2. Acid erosion

The protective enamel on your teeth can get worn away by certain foods and drinks - the articles above will give you more advice on avoiding these, and mitigating the impact of your diet on your tooth enamel.

3. Chipping

A sharp, broken or chipped tooth can expose the inner parts of the tooth and lead to erosion over time. This sort of damage could be caused by injury or eating something very hard. Protecting your teeth while playing contact sports is particularly important.

4. Abrasion and attrition

Teeth can get worn down by brushing too aggressively and from tooth grinding. We have some top tips on stress-related bruxism (teeth grinding) that may help.

How is a filling done?

Step 1: Before placing a filling, your dentist may need to remove any decayed or weakened parts of the tooth. They’ll offer you the option to numb the area first, usually with injections of local anaesthetic.

Step 2: Your dentist will shape, clean and dry the remaining tooth so it can take the filling.

Step 3: They’ll fill the cavity with an amalgam or composite filling.

Step 4: Your dentist will check your bite feels normal when your teeth are closed together.

Dentist's chair

How long will a filling last?

Amalgam fillings can last up to 20 years, while composite fillings can last for around 12-15 years. As with all things teeth-related, the better you take care of your teeth, the longer your fillings will last.

How can I avoid fillings in the future?

Prevention is key! Our top tips for avoiding fillings are:

  1. Avoiding or cutting down on sugary or acidic foods and drink. This includes sugary items and particularly soft drinks.
  2. See your dentist and hygienist regularly
  3. Clean between your teeth (interdental cleaning / flossing) every day
  4. Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes each time
  5. Use a fluoride toothpaste
  6. Change your toothbrush or toothbrush head at least once every three months

All of us at Oral Health wish you a very happy holiday and we look forward to seeing you next year.