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Tooth Filling

What is a tooth filling?

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Tooth Filling explained

Dr. Sarah explains everything you need to know
about tooth filling services at the dentist

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.

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:

  • Tooth filling material costs
  • Time in the chair and complexity of the treatment
  • Lab technician costs
  • Clinic room set up for each procedure
  • Business expenses and overheads (rent, utilities, wages, etc)
  • Location of the practice
  • Surrounding competition

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.  

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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. 

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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 them 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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Understanding your condition is the key to making the right choices for you


The dental crown cost will vary depending on the type of material being used by the dentist to construct the tooth crown. For a composite resin tooth crown cost, you can expect to pay between $400 – $650. If the dental crown is an indirect custom made ceramic crown the cost is usually somewhere between $900 – $1800 depending on the size of the crown, the complexity of the construction and other services required to ensure the quality of the overall service. A gold or zirconia crown is made by a dental lab technician and will cost between $1500 – $2000. These two types of materials are considered to be the strongest man-made tooth equivalent material available today.

1. The dentist will numb the gum and tooth using a local anesthetic

2. If there is an existing filling inside the tooth that is leaking or breaking down, the dentist may decide to replace this to ensure a clean and sturdy foundation for the new tooth crown to be cemented onto.

3. The dentist will reshape the tooth to make room for the dental crown to sit snugly over the top. Depending on the damage needing repair, a tooth crown may completely cover the entire tooth, or it may just cover the area needing protection, leaving the rest of the natural tooth intact.

4. Once the tooth has been shaped the dentist will take either a putty impression or a digital scan of the prepared tooth.

5. The putty impression or digital scan is then sent to the lab, or if the practice is making the dental crown onsite using CAD/CAM equipment the design process will be done by the dentist immediately.

6. The next stage is cementing the crown which consists of numbing the area once more and going through the stages of cementation using a system of materials that glues the new tooth crown directly to the tooth surface. The key is to ensure a seamless fit around the tooth margin to reduce the risk of bacteria from entering under the new crown.

7. The dentist will check that you are happy with the look and feel of the new dental crown and if all feels normal, your dental crown treatment is complete.

The materials used to make a dental tooth crown include;

composite resin
stainless steel
all-porcelain / ceramic
and porcelain fused to a metal core

1. The tooth has previously had a large filling that is now failing. To replace the filling with a new filling will only provide a short term fix and put the tooth at risk of breaking beyond repair.

2. The nerve of the tooth has become infected forcing you to have a root canal treatment in an effort to keep the tooth. A root canal procedure weakens the tooth, therefore, a crown may be recommended to bring strength and stability back to the tooth.

3. A hairline crack or fracture has developed on the tooth surface. If left exposed and untreated, the crack could develop further causing the tooth to break beyond repair, pain on biting due to the tooth structure flexing when you chew, or with a significant crack, it may reach the nerve of the tooth causing it to become infected and die.

4. The tooth has been badly worn down from clenching and grinding and due to these intense pressures of a person with a bruxing habit, a regular composite filling will not be able to withstand these forces like an indirect dental crown can.

5. The outer layer of the tooth has eroded away from an acidic diet, improper tooth brushing, medical conditions such as reflux or regular medications and now needs a protective covering that can provide a sustainable barrier from these elements if the tooth is to survive long term.

The type of dental crown material a dentist will recommend for a back tooth will depend on a few factors.

1. Are there any opposing teeth that bite down onto the new tooth crown
2. The overall function and position of the bite
3. The amount of natural tooth structure available to cement the tooth crown on to
4. How many teeth surround the tooth being crowned
5. What caused the tooth to need a crown in the first place
6. The patient’s overall level of gum and general oral health

Once a dentist has considered these factors they will suggest the right material to suit your needs. If the tooth crown needs the highest level of strength with minimal removal of tooth structure, then a gold crown might be considered. If aesthetics are most dental important, a full ceramic dental crown might be best so that it can be colour matched to blend perfectly with the rest of the smile.

When deciding which dental crown material to use for a back molar tooth it is important that you clearly understand the pros and cons of each option. Taking the time to speak with the dentist about why they are recommending a particular tooth crown material is the key to feeling in control of your dental health.

A dental crown procedure should not be painful or give you any discomfort during the appointment itself. Patients relate having a dental crown treatment similar to having a routine tooth filling treatment completed as the process of using the drill and shaping the tooth for the dental crown is much like preparing a tooth for a dental filling. To ensure you don’t feel a thing the dentist will numb the area completely using local anesthetic before they begin treatment. You may, however, experience some slight teeth sensitivity to temperature post-treatment. This is due to the gum and tooth being worked on and exposed to the elements in order to make room for your new tooth crown.

With proper home care, regular visits to the dentist to review and maintain the integrity and stability of the crown and to address any concerns early on that may impact on the dental crown structure or the underlying tooth, tooth crowns can last for many many years. How long will vary greatly on a number of factors such as diet and lifestyle, the position of the teeth and bite, bruxing habits, medical health and medications and overall oral health and home hygiene care The best way to ensure you get the longest life possible out of your new dental crown is to have the treatment done by a dental expert who is confident in providing you with a well-designed dental crown that fits perfectly and meets your dental needs, and by returning to the dentist every six months for regular teeth cleaning and a review of the integrity of the crown and tooth.

It is important to note that dental tooth crowns are considered the most long term solution to keeping a fragile tooth strong and in your smile for as long as possible.


Following treatment for a tooth crown, you can expect the tooth and gum to be sensitive to hot and cold for a few days. This is completely normal. If the tooth continues to be sensitive without improvement for more than two weeks it is advised to return to the dentist for a consultation.

The tooth crown should feel completely normal in your bite. If you can feel the tooth crown when you bite down as the first point of contact you must return to the dentist for the dental crown to be adjusted. Leaving a dental crown high in your bite may cause significant damage to the tooth and nerve.

Yes. It is possible for a dental crown to fall off. In most situations, this can be a simple case of dental cement becoming unstuck. A quick visit to the dentist to have it recemented is often all that is needed if the crown is still intact and the tooth itself is healthy. However, if the crown has fallen off because the underlying tooth structure has been compromised with a break or decay (tooth rot) the solution might not be quite as simple.

If the dental crown has come away because the foundational support and structure of the natural tooth holding the crown in place is no longer healthy the dentist may advise you that the dental crown you have can no longer be used. Your options might be to redo the entire dental crown procedure by reshaping the tooth and treating the newly damaged or decayed area and having a new crown made and cemented. Or it could mean that tooth is beyond repair and a tooth crown is no longer a viable option for this tooth and removal of the tooth is now the most cost-effective and sound option.


Having a dental crown is not a set and forget treatment solution where you never have to worry about the tooth again. Just because you have a solid covering over the top of the tooth does not mean it is protected from the bacteria and disease that cause decay and tooth loss. The most common path for bacteria to enter underneath a dental crown is through the join or margin where the dental crown butts up against the natural tooth. Over time the tooth structure and or dental crown can wear away exposing the natural tooth structure, or causing gaps to appear between the joints allowing food, debris and bacteria to find its way through to the underlying tooth. This burrowing of cavity-causing bacteria can happen slowly over time without you or the dentist ever knowing what is happening until the crown comes off, the tooth breaks or you experience sensitivity or pain.

It can be difficult to identify and diagnose a cavity or infection under a crown in a visual examination or with an x-ray as the dental crown is radio-opaque meaning it blocks the radiation from passing through making it almost impossible to see what’s happening underneath and inside the tooth crown. Majority of the time, the dentist relies on the patient’s feedback on symptoms felt by the tooth to diagnose a cavity under a dental crown. In some cases, the dentist may suggest removing the crown in order to inspect the tooth structure and give a clear diagnosis.

No teeth whitening gel or teeth bleaching products will change the colour of a dental crown of any kind, no matter what dental material has been used to complete the dental crown. If you want to whiten your teeth, it is advised to do this prior to having your tooth crown procedure so that the dentist can match the tooth crown to the colour of your freshly whitened teeth.

Be warned! If you whiten your teeth prior to having a dental crown, and the dental crown colour is made to match the bright white shade of your bleached teeth, you will need to maintain regular whitening of your teeth over time to ensure the dental crown continues to blend with the rest of your natural teeth. Whitening when you have a dental crown in your smile line becomes a lifelong commitment that you must consider if you want the dental crown to look as if it is your own.

Care for your dental crown the same as you would the rest of your natural teeth. There is no need for additional care with a tooth crown. Brushing the tooth and surrounding gum twice a day, and flossing between the tooth crown and the teeth either side is all that should be required for home care maintenance of your tooth crown.

Regular visits to the dentist for a check-up and teeth cleaning, usually every six months, is highly recommended. This allows the dentist to inspect the margins of the crown, note how the structure of the dental crown is holding up in your bite and make sure the rest of your teeth and gums are looking healthy. A tooth crown is a significant investment in your dental health and one you should ensure you care for long after it has been placed.

Tooth Filling

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 specialized 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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