While a set of dazzling white teeth certainly project a lovely smile and also boost one’s confidence, unfortunately, numerous problems plague oral health, with cavities being one of the most common issues. Also called dental caries, a cavity is a hole in a tooth which emerges from tooth decay. It is caused by the erosion of the protective enamel layer due to acids in the mouth, from poor oral hygiene, bacteria or consuming sugary food and drink often. However, the dentist, upon examining the person’s teeth and identifying cavities, remedies the concern by means of a procedure known as cavity filling.

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Doctor doing cavity filling for a boy

A cavity filling is a form of dental filling wherein the dentist removes the decayed segment of the tooth and fills that portion with a material like metal or ceramic, to prevent further damage to the tooth and internal layers beyond the enamel, like the dentin and the underlying nerves. While this procedure prompts mild discomfort and pain in the mouth, jaws, it is a relatively inexpensive method to treat cavities that does not induce any serious complications or require advanced medical care.

Types Of Cavity Fillings:

There are several kinds of cavity fillings based on the material used to seal the decayed tooth, such as:

Amalgam Fillings: These are silver-coloured fillings composed of metal amalgams – a combination of copper, tin, silver and mercury and are very durable and long-lasting.

Composite Fillings: A mix of glass/quartz particles and acrylic resin, these are white-coloured fillings that are sturdy blend well with the natural colour of the tooth.

Glass Lonomer Fillings: These fillings are prepared from acrylic and a type of powdered glass that contains fluoride which help prevent further cavities from arising. They are also tooth-coloured but are not as hardened as composite and are more expensive than amalgam, being widely used for children.

Gold Fillings: Being golden in colour and more expensive than other filling materials, these fillings are a mixture of gold, copper and a few other metals, that are tough and last long.

Porcelain/Ceramic Fillings: These fillings are as expensive as gold fillings and are made of bright white porcelain/ceramic material. They are strong and aesthetic in appearance as well, which look natural when used to fill in decayed regions of teeth.


Cavity fillings are done in a dentist’s clinic, which is usually well-equipped with the necessary apparatus. The dentist first carefully examines all the teeth and takes note of which ones have cavities in them that require fillings. A numbing gel is applied on the gums in the region, following which a local anaesthetic medication is injected into the gums. This helps suppress the sensations in the area, thereby lessening pain and discomfort during the filling procedure.

Also Read: Anaesthesia: Types, Procedure, Side Effects And Risks

A drill, abrasion instrument or laser is then used to eliminate the damaged portion of the tooth and the filling material is applied to the pitted region. Finally, the filling is polished to seal the material in place and make the surface of the tooth uniform. The entire cavity filling procedure will take between 10 minutes to 1 hour depending upon the number of teeth to be filled and the extent of damage in each tooth. The patient can go home and resume normal activities afterwards, though the fillings take one full day to set completely.

Risks And Post-Procedural Care:

There are no major risks involved in a cavity filling protocol. Some minor side effects tend to accompany this dental procedure, such as tooth pain and increased sensitivity in the teeth and gums to hot and cold foods/drinks. The doctor advises the patient to steer clear of biting into brittle foods and sipping on very hot or cold drinks for 1 – 2 days post the procedure. Pain-relieving medications i.e. analgesics are given to alleviate toothaches, while adhering to good oral care practices of brushing, tongue-cleaning, flossing, rinsing with a mouthwash are advised to prevent bad breath/halitosis, further cavities and gum disease.

Also Read: Tooth Pain: Your Dental Discomfort Could Be An Indication of Various Underlying Conditions

Moreover, if heightened tooth sensitivity prolongs for more than 1 – 2 days after the filling procedure or if the filling becomes loose and comes off, then it is recommended to visit the dentist to remedy the sensitive teeth and gums and rectify and tightly fix the cavity filling as well.