Do I need a filling ? When to tell if you need one

We are often scared or anxious about going to the dentist, especially when it involves treatments such as fillings. Those treatments are though necessary and much more scary than actually painful or dangerous. So here is a little guide to explain you when you need a filling and what it actually means.


A tooth filling is the treatment for dental decay.


What is decay?



Decay is a process through which sugar dissolves teeth and creates a cavity in one (or more) of them. Sugar creates acids when in contact with plaque on the teeth. The acids attack the teeth, dissolving the enamel. Saliva can protect the teeth for some time but is not enough if the teeth are confronted to too much sugar.

Decays can create different kinds of cavities:

  • - Coronal cavities are the most commons ones as they appear in between teeth or on surfaces affected by chewing.
  • - Root cavities happen older as our gums tend to disappear with age and so cannot protect the tooth roots anymore. They are then more susceptible to dental decay.
  • - Recurrent decay appears around existing fillings because plaque built up in those locations.



What are the symptoms of dental decay?



Decay does not often present symptoms. However, if your teeth get suddenly sensitive to hot, cold or sweet food you should consult a dentist. If your tooth feels rough or if you have a hole in your tooth it means you could have decay as well. If either your tooth or an existing filling is damaged or broken then you are at risk as well.


When does a cavity need to be filled with a tooth filling? How does it work?



As soon as you experience any pain or disagreement you should visit a dentist in London. The dentist will examine your teeth with first a small mirror and then special instruments. If needed, the dentist can also get x-rays of your mouth. If a cavity is found, it needs to be immediately filled. Not only does it treat decay on the moment but it also prevents further decay. The dentist removes the decayed part of your tooth, cleans the cavity and then fills it with a specific material.



Patient with the mouth opened, hangs with blues gloves holding dentistry tools in her mouth

Source: dentalgama



What kinds of material are used for fillings?



There are different kinds of tooth fillers, with different prices but also different advantages.


  • Gold fillings are expensive and need to be order in the laboratory. However they can last really long, sometimes more than 20 years, and are very well tolerated by the gums.
  • Silver amalgam fillings are much less expensive but can last as long. However, they are darker and can only be used in quite hidden areas.
  • Composite resins fillings are used on the contrary in visible areas as they can match the tooth’s colour. However, they can become stained with coffee, tea or cigarette and do not last as long as the others (rarely more than 10 years).
  • Porcelain (or ceramic) fillings are expensive and need to be ordered in the laboratory just like gold ones. They match the tooth’s colour and resist staining.



Teeth with a white fillings on the top

Source: The healthsite



It is impossible to guarantee how long your filling will last and it happens that it falls out and needs a replacement.



How do I know if my filling fell out and what should I do?



It is not always that easy to tell when your filling has fallen out but there are a few signs that can help you find out.

  • If your tooth becomes suddenly painful, it could mean the filling fell out.
  • If your tooth becomes suddenly sensitive to hot and cold, it can be a sign as well.
  • If you feel a hole or a crack in your tooth it may be that your filling is damaged and will fall soon.
  • If you feel a small object in your mouth after biting hard it can simply be your filling.


If a filling falling out is usually not an emergency, it is important to clean your tooth very well to avoid any infection. If the pain is too strong and hard to handle, book an appointment with a private dentist for a filling replacement as soon as possible.


Your dentist will simply replace the filling by another and check there is no bigger issue.



How do I know if I need a root canal treatment and not just a filling?



If decay reaches the nerve, then you may need a root canal treatment, which is different from an ordinary filling. A nerve that is too much damaged needs to be removed. The dentist may first take x-rays of your tooth to get a clear picture of the root canal and then use local anaesthesia so you do not feel any pain.



x ray of teeth showing their roots

Source: Tower Smiles Dental



The dentist will first open the tooth through the top and remove infected pulp (soft tissue at the centre of the tooth).

Your dentist will clean and enlarge the root canal, as explained by the NHS, in order to fill it. This can take several hours and be completed over several visits. Once finished, the tooth will be sealed with a temporary filling until the dentist is able to insert the proper root canal filling and prevent any infection. You may need a crown to protect your tooth and it will be more fragile than usual.


If you feel any pain or suspect decay, visit a dentist for a check-up and a if needed a filling. You will probably not feel any pain thanks to the anaesthesia and it is a very common treatment that is not any dangerous at all.

Julia from Findoc