Tooth Filling

What is a tooth filling?

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A tooth filling, also known in dentistry as tooth restoration, describes the process of removing diseased or broken down tooth structure and replacing the space with a suitable tooth filling material in an effort to preserve the tooth for as long as possible.  The use of fillings to restore a tooth back to a functional and cosmetically pleasing state has been common practice since the mid-1800s.  In these early days, dentists would most commonly use a product called amalgam.  Amalgam is a mixture of tin, copper, silver and mercury and is melted down, placed inside the prepared tooth cavity and sets hard in minutes allowing a dental patient to leave the clinic with a fully restored tooth to chew on in a single appointment.

Amalgam tooth filling material has received a lot of negative criticism backed by what most consider credible research on the health risks associated with the use of the mercury comprised tooth filling material.  These concerns have led to the manufacturing of a new material called composite resin.  Composite resin comes in various shades of white so that it can be matched to a patient’s existing teeth shade.  If a composite tooth filling is done well by an experienced and highly skilled dentist or oral health therapist, it’s almost impossible to see where the tooth filling ends and the natural tooth structure begins.  Although composite resin tooth fillings are now considered to be the preferred choice for a tooth restoration by both patients and dentists, amalgam is still widely used and respected by the dental profession for its long-lasting working life in situations that require a stronger and more hardwearing solution, or in areas which are difficult to access and keep dry during placement of the tooth filling material.

We are fortunate that amalgam and composite resin tooth filling materials have been developed as a cost-effective solution to restoring the tooth back to its original function after tooth rot (dental decay) or trauma has occurred, however, there are also stronger and longer-lasting solutions to tooth fillings nowadays such as inlays and crowns.  These harder wearing and more cosmetically enhanced tooth filling options can be offered in gold, zirconia and porcelain material. 

Choosing to have an inlay or crown will mean slightly longer appointment times and most likely two appointments to complete the entire process if an off-site lab technician is tasked with making your inlay or crown.  These high tech tooth filling solutions need to be designed and made using specialised machines by trained dental professionals or lab technicians who are experts at crafting a custom tooth-shaped cap that will be cemented onto the tooth.  You can expect an inlay or crown made from these hard-wearing tooth filling materials to last far longer than a composite resin tooth filling, so long as regular oral hygiene care is maintained.  The downside to a dental crown or inlay besides needing a bit longer in the dental chair is the cost.  An inlay or dental crown will vary depending on the size of the tooth restoration needed and the material you go with.  As a rough estimate, the cost for a lab-made dental crown is between $500 – $2000.  

As mentioned, the complexity and size of a tooth filling will vary greatly depending on the damage caused.  This will also impact on the overall tooth filling cost, and the time the dentist needs to perform the tooth filling procedure.  Seeking advice and consultation from a trusted dentist who comes highly recommended as an expert at providing tooth filling services in your area is key to salvaging your damaged or diseased tooth long term.  

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How much should a tooth filling cost?

The tooth filling cost will vary greatly depending on the material being used, the time it takes to provide the service by the dentist and the extent of the damage needing repair.  One question that always gets asked no matter what the situation is ‘why are tooth fillings so expensive?’  The answer is not an easy one as many factors contribute to the perceived high cost of dental care, especially tooth fillings.  

Some factors dentists may consider when setting their tooth filling cost could be:

If you’re concerned about the tooth filling cost after getting a treatment quote from a dentist it might be worth taking the time to get a second opinion.  That way you know you’re getting the right advice and can make an informed decision on treatments that suit your budget.  

Tooth filling treatments on AirSmile.

If you’re in need of a tooth filling our AirSmile dentist members are expertly trained at providing the right solution to your tooth filling needs.  Tooth fillings can be simple or they can be quite complex.  Therefore, you need the best dentist in your area to get the best tooth filling that will look and feel right and last long into the future. 

Don’t forget to request your previous records and upload them into your AirSmile account so that your new AirSmile dentist has instant access to view before you even arrive.  That way you can get the best care on the day whilst saving time and money when the dentist can utilize your previous records. 

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The longevity of a tooth filling will depend on many factors and although the dentist can give you an estimation of how long the tooth filling will last unfortunately there are no guarantees.  

Factors that will impact on how long your tooth filling will last include;

  • Home oral hygiene, maintenance and ongoing care 
  • What tooth filling material was used
  • The size and complexity of the tooth filling 
  • Skill level of the dentist placing the tooth filling
  • Where the tooth filling was placed (some areas are harder to access and look after)
  • Difficulty in placing the tooth filling in your mouth
  • Diet and lifestyle habits
  • Bite and position of the teeth
  • Clenching and grinding habits
  • Medications 
  • Genetic factors 
  • Damage and trauma from an accident

The time it takes to get a tooth filling treatment with a dentist will depend on the material being used, the size of the tooth filling required, accessibility and your level of comfort in the chair.  For a straight forward tooth filling, you can expect the dentist to take around 20 – 45 minutes to complete the procedure.  This includes numbing the area, removing any broken or diseased tooth structure (decay), preparing the area for the tooth filling material, placing the material and making adjustments to suit your bite.

If you require a larger tooth filling or have decided to go with a lab-made tooth filling option, the appointment length will be longer and may require you to have a temporary tooth filling placed and a second visit to cement the final inlay or crown.

If the dentist placed anesthetic to numb the area before starting the tooth filling procedure the injection site might be sore for a day or so.  You may also experience slight hot and cold sensitivity for a short period of time following a tooth filling procedure – this is completely normal.  However, if the tooth continues to be sensitive without improvement over the following 2-3 weeks it is advised to return to the dentist for a review.  

The tooth should not be rough to the tongue or feel high in your bite.  If you are experiencing tenderness when you bite down or chew the tooth filling may need to be adjusted by the dentist.  If a tooth filling is left high, it may cause damage to the nerve and ligament surrounding the tooth causing tenderness and pain on biting.  Leaving a tooth filling high in your bite could lead to the nerve of the tooth dying, therefore, it is best to visit the dentist to have it corrected as soon as you become aware of any high spots.

  • Sensitivity to hot, cold or sweet food or drinks
  • A noticeable brown-black stain or hole on the tooth surface
  • Toothache 
  • Broken tooth 
  • An abnormal ditch or pit in the tooth structure
  • Crack in tooth structure
  • A dental check-up identifies a tooth cavity on an x-ray or during the dentist’s physical and visual examination 
  • The teeth are badly worn 
  • To improve the appearance of the tooth 
  • Smile make-over
  • Amalgam – A mixture of silver, mercury, tin and copper tooth filling material
  • Composite – acrylic resin in various shades of white to match the existing tooth
  • Glass Ionomer – silicate glass-powder with slow releasing fluoride
  • Inlays – lab fabricated tooth fillings made out of gold, zirconia or porcelain 

Think of a tooth like a pumpkin.  They both have a hard outer layer that protects the softer and more susceptible layers inside that could be easily damaged by a knock or eaten away by bugs and disease.  If the hard outer shell of the tooth known as the enamel is damaged in some way a tooth filling could be the recommended solution by a dentist to repair the tooth quickly and at minimal expense.  However, if the tooth rot or damage has entered and impacted the nerve of the tooth causing swelling, pain and the nerve to die, or if the break or disease has travelled below the gum line making it impossible to provide a quality tooth restoration, you may be told the tooth needs a root canal treatment to be saved, or worse! The tooth may need to be extracted.

The purpose of a tooth filling is to restore and salvage a damaged or rotting tooth for a while longer.  Although tooth fillings are not a permanent solution and may need to be replaced several times over the life of the patient depending on age, lifestyle and material used, it’s certainly a welcomed solution to a patient wanting to keep a tooth as part of their smile for as long as possible.  

If tooth rot (decay) is the cause of you needing a tooth filling or tooth restoration, and this is not treated by a dentist before it reaches the nerve of the tooth, you will most likely be told you need a root canal treatment to remove the infected nerve tissue, clean out the nerve canal and have a permanent tooth filling completed to restore the tooth back to its original state.  In almost all cases, failing to treat an area of decay will eventually result in toothache ranging from slight sensitivity to hot, cold and or sweet foods and drinks, to severe often torturous pain and swelling in and around the tooth.  If you manage to get through the period of discomfort, pain or infection without having the tooth treated at the time, most likely the tooth will break apart later on when you’re going about your day, usually at an incredibly inconvenient time for you, as it no longer has the internal strength of a healthy tooth.  It is always recommended to follow the advice of your dentist if they are advising you of active disease inside the tooth that may lead to an emergency root canal treatment or tooth extraction down the track.  

Leaving a cavity will undoubtedly lead to a dental emergency in the future and treating small issues are far less expensive and time-consuming than dealing with a painful, costly and inconvenient dental emergency.


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Everything you need to enhance practice efficiency. For clinics that want to offer better dental.


Compare quotes, manage your appointments, store dental records, and more. For people who want better dental.


Everything you need to enhance practice efficiency. For clinics that want to offer better dental.