How Long Does A Filling Take?

Are you struggling with tooth pain or tooth sensitivity? Then you most probably need to get your teeth checked for cavities. I have had two fillings done in my back molars. Honestly, I was terrified when my dentist said I had a cavity in my tooth. I did so much research on the topic that I could literally write a thesis on dental fillings by the end of it!

I was laughing at myself after my first dental filling. It was neither scary nor painful. Now I can confidently answer the question – How long does a filling take? Not much longer than cooking yourself a porridge breakfast – 15 minutes tops!

Dental Fillings – Why They Are Needed

The bacteria in your teeth produce a very strong acid when they eat the micro food particles stuck on your teeth. This results in the formation of plaque that needs to be brushed and flossed regularly. Otherwise, plaque build up chips away at the tooth enamel and can result in a small hole or cavity.

If cavities are not treated in a timely manner, uncontrolled decay can spread to the root of the tooth. Once the root is inflamed, a root canal treatment is needed. The root of the tooth needs to be extracted and disinfected in order to save the tooth. Hence, it is best to visit your dentist promptly if you have tooth pain.

Dental Fillings – Different Available Types

Once your dentist has determined the extent of your tooth decay they will recommend a dental filling for you. The dentist will remove the plaque in your tooth and fill the hole with a substance called dental filling. You would generally get a choice or recommendation for the best type of filling suited for your teeth.

Here is a quick summary of dental fillings

  • Amalgam Fillings – Amalgam is a combination of silver, copper, tin and mercury to create a very strong filling. Amalgam is usually recommended for the back teeth because they can resist frequent wear and tear.
  • Composite Fillings – Composite fillings are made of acrylic resin and blend very well with the natural colour of the tooth. However, they wear down quickly and are recommended for the front teeth.
  • Glass Ionomer Fillings – These are tooth coloured fillings that release some fluoride around the tooth to prevent further decay.
  • Gold Inlays and Onlays – Gold is the best metal for dental filling but also the most expensive. Gold fillings need to be custom made in the laboratory that further adds to the expense.
  • Porcelain Inlays – Porcelain fillings are stain resistant, strong and closely match natural tooth colour. However, they are as expensive as gold fillings too.

Dental Fillings – The process

There is very little risk when an experienced dentist, who conducts the procedure multiple times a day, does the filling for you.

  1. You will be given a local anaesthesia to numb the decayed tooth.
  2. The dentist will remove decay and shape the tooth using a drill. Some healthy tooth structure may need to be removed depending on the type of filling used.
  3. Then your dentist will etch the tooth with acid gel.
  4. The tooth will be filled and the filling hardened.
  5. The tooth will be polished.

So How Long Does A Filling Take?

The actual time required for the dental filling procedure depends on the following factors:

  • The amount of decay
  • Difficulty of tooth access (premolars are easier to fill than second or third molars)
  • Number of surfaces involved
  • The type of filling
  • The speed and experience of your dentist

In my experience, the longest part of the dental filling process is waiting for the anaesthesia to kick in. I had a silver filling and the procedure took 20 minutes from start to finish. Composite resin fillings can take an hour to complete as the tooth has to completely dry before a new composite layer can be added. For excessive decay, you may need multiple appointments if your tooth needs a temporary filling before the final filling can be added.

What Happens Next?

Some tooth sensitivity is expected after your anaesthesia wears off. You may also experience a very sharp shock (called galvanic shock) when the metal in the newly filled tooth touches another tooth. You may also need to take painkillers or antibiotics to avoid post-procedure infection.

I remember I had to avoid cold and sweet foods for a couple of days after my dental filling. However, if you have excessive pain for 3 days or more after the procedure, you need to go back to the dentist again. The filling could be too high and your dentist will need to reduce it.


Things To Remember

  • If you have a cavity, do not delay getting your teeth filled.
  • There are different types of fillings available depending on your requirements.
  • Dental fillings are conducted under anaesthesia. If you are worried about the anaesthesia injection, ask your dentist to apply numbing gel to the gums before the jab.
  • A dental filling process is usually quick and pain-free.
  • Do not leave excessive post-filling pain to go unexamined.
  • Brush and floss your teeth regularly to avoid further tooth decay.

Here is a nice article by the American Dental Association explaining the proper techniques of brushing your teeth.

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