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Dental Cavity Filling

Last updated Feb. 21, 2018

When a tooth structure is damaged, chiefly due to dental cavities, a Dental Cavity Filling is used to restore its function.


Background Information:

What are the other Names for the Procedure?

  • Dental Cavity Restoration
  • Oral Cavity Filling
  • Tooth Cavity Filling

What is Dental Cavity Filling Procedure?

  • When a tooth structure is damaged, chiefly due to dental cavities, a Dental Cavity Filling is used to restore its function
  • The dentist scrapes/cleans the affected cavity region and uses a suitable material to fill and shape the cavity space
  • This can help avoid further tooth decay and entry of food particles into the damaged space, which can be a cause of bacterial infection
  • A Dental Cavity Filling is among the most common dental procedure carried out. It is also known as a Tooth Cavity Filling

What part of the Body does the Procedure involve?

A Dental Cavity Filling procedure involves the problematic tooth. Sometimes, more than one filling (involving several teeth) may be undertaken.

Why is the Dental Cavity Filling procedure Performed?

  • A Dental Cavity Filling procedure is performed when a tooth is damaged due to a cavity or trauma. This can help prevent further tooth decay
  • It is typically undertaken in young children, although fillings are common among all age groups (including adults)

What are some Alternative Choices for the Procedure?

If the level of injury to tooth is extensive, then a synthetic crown may be used to cap the damaged tooth. However, Dental Cavity Fillings are commonly used to address dental caries worldwide.

What are the Recent Advances in the Procedure?

  • The advances in the field of Dental Cavity Filling procedures are more to do with use of reliable and long-lasting filling materials
  • Also, newer technologies using electricity to promote natural mineral (calcium and phosphate) movement into the damaged tooth portions are being researched into

What is the Cost of performing the Dental Cavity Filling Procedure?

The cost of Dental Cavity Fillings procedure depends on a variety of factors, such as the type of your health insurance, annual deductibles, co-pay requirements, out-of-network and in-network of your healthcare providers and healthcare facilities.

In many cases, an estimate may be provided before the procedure. The final amount depends upon the findings during the surgery/procedure and post-operative care that is necessary.

When do you need a Second Opinion, prior to the Procedure?

  • It is normal for a patient to feel uncomfortable and confused by the information regarding Dental Cavity Filling procedure and on what needs to be done
  • If the patient needs further reassurance or a second opinion, a physician will almost always assist and also recommend another physician, if required
  • Also, if the procedure involves multiple surgeries or has many alternatives, the patient may take a second opinion to understand and choose the best one. They can also choose to approach another physician independently

What are some Helpful Resources?

Complete Guide to Symptoms, Illness & Surgery; Written by H Winter Griffith, M.D.; Revised and updated by Stephen Moore, M.D. and Kenneth Yoder, M.D.; The Berkley Publishing Group, 5th Edition, New York, 2006

https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/procedures/fillings/what-is-a-filling (accessed on 01/04/2018)

http://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Publications/Files/patient_52.pdf?la=en (accessed on 01/04/2018)

http://jamiethedentist.com/dental-fillings/risks-and-problems (accessed on 01/04/2018)

Prior to Dental Cavity Filling Procedure:

How is the Dental Cavity Filling procedure Performed?

Dental Cavity Fillings may be undertaken by dentists over several sessions, in the following manner:

  • A visual examination of each tooth is made (if necessary using a special mirror) to evaluate teeth requiring treatment including filling. If necessary, an X-ray is taken to view the extent of injury
  • The treatment type required is proposed by the dentist based on the extent of decay and tooth damage
  • If necessary, local anesthesia is administered to numb the region
  • The dentist scrapes/cleans the affected cavity region, using a small handheld electric drill and other instruments
  • The cleaned cavity is then prepared to receive the filling (which is a synthetic material).An acid gel may be used as cementing substance on the surface of the cleaned-out cavity
  • The filling is applied in layers and may be set and hardened using heat or bright light

Any of the following filling material may be used for the filling, depending on the dental professional’s evaluation:

  • Porcelain
  • Plastic or resin-based composites
  • Amalgams (of elements such as silver, copper, or mercury)
  • Gold
  • Glass ionomers

Cavity Fillings may depend on various factors such as:

  • Location of the affected tooth
  • The cost involved
  • If the individual has any allergies
  • And, the type of repair needed

Where is the Procedure Performed?

Dental Cavity Fillings are usually performed in an out-patient surgery center facility, a dentist or an oral surgeon’s clinic or office.

Who Performs the Procedure?

A dentist typically performs the Dental Cavity Filling procedure.

How long will the Procedure take?

A Dental Cavity Filling procedure may take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes, depending on the extent of tooth decay and number of teeth involved. It may be carried out over one or more sessions, based on the assessment of the dental professional.

What do you need to tell your Physician before the Procedure?

It is very important to provide the following information to your healthcare provider. This enables your healthcare provider in assessing the risks for the Dental Cavity Filling procedure and helps avoid unnecessary complications.

  • Provide a complete list of medications you are currently taking to your physician. This information is useful for a variety of reasons. For example, it can help your healthcare provider prevent complications due to a drug interaction
  • If you are allergic to any specific medication, food items, or the filling material used in the procedure
  • If you are taking blood thinners such as aspirin, warfarin, herbal supplements, or any other such medications
  • If you or your family members have a history of bleeding disorders, or if there is a tendency to bleed more than normal
  • If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, chest pains, or have previously suffered from a heart attack
  • If you have ever been diagnosed with blood clots in your leg (deep vein thrombosis) or lung (embolism of lung)
  • If you have a history of frequent bone fractures (this may affect bone-healing if bones are involved as part of your procedure)
  • A list of all previous surgical procedures you have undergone, for example: Removal of appendix, gallbladder, or any other part, of your body; surgical repair of any body part, such as hernia repair, perforation of bowel wall, etc.

What Preparations are needed, prior to the Procedure?

  • The physician may evaluate the individual’s medical history to gain a comprehensive knowledge of the overall health status of the patient including information related to the medications that are currently being taken
  • Some medications increase a person’s chances of bleeding and it may be recommended to discontinue them for a period of time before the procedure is performed
  • Blood tests may be performed to determine if there is a bleeding tendency or any other medical conditions that prevents the person from undergoing the procedure
  • Inform the physician if you are allergic to any local anesthetics, lidocaine, etc.
  • Avoid application of any cosmetics, deodorant, or topical medicines on the area prior to the procedure
  • It is advisable to quit smoking and the use of any nicotine based products for a while before the surgery
  • Consumption of alcoholic drinks must also be avoided for a period of time, as instructed
  • The patient must avoid eating or drinking at least 8 hours prior to the surgical procedure, depending on when the procedure is arranged
  • For individuals suffering from diabetes, it is important that the blood sugar stays within the normal range; if not, their diabetologist may have to control blood sugar by recommending insulin and/or a combination of oral medicines

What is the Consent Process before the Procedure?

A physician will request your consent for Dental Cavity Filling procedure using an Informed Consent Form.

Consent for the Procedure: A “consent” is your approval to undergo a procedure. A consent form is signed after the risks and benefits of the procedure, and alternative treatment options, are discussed. This process is called informed consent.

You must sign the forms only after you are totally satisfied by the answers to your questions. In case of minors and individuals unable to personally give their consent, the individual’s legal guardian or next of kin, shall give their consent for the procedure.

What Tests are needed, before the Dental Cavity Filling Procedure?

Before a Dental Cavity Filling procedure, the patient may have to undergo certain tests such as:

  • Visual examination of teeth
  • Routine blood and urine analysis, as required
  • X-ray of the mouth

What are some Questions for your Physician?

Some of the basic questions that you might ask your physician are as follows:

  • What is a Dental Cavity Filling procedure?
  • Why is this procedure necessary?  How will it help?
  • How soon should I get it done? Is it an emergency?
  • Who are the medical personnel involved in this procedure?
  • Where is the procedure performed?
  • What are the risks while performing the procedure?
  • What are the complications that might take place during recovery?
  • How long will it take to recover? When can I resume normal work?
  • How many such procedures have you (the physician) performed?
  • Are there any follow-up tests or periodic visits to the healthcare facility required, after the procedure?
  • What are the costs involved?

During the Dental Cavity Filling Procedure:

What kind of Anesthesia is given, during the Procedure?

Local anesthesia may be administered for the procedure.

How much Blood will you lose, during the Procedure?

Typically, no blood loss is involved during a Dental Cavity Filling procedure.

What are the possible Risks and Complications during the Dental Cavity Filling Procedure?

There are general factors that increase the risk of getting complications during surgery and they include:

  • Obesity: Generally, the greater the degree of obesity, the greater the surgical risk
  • Smoking: The longer the smoking history (in pack years smoked), the greater the surgical risk
  • Advancing age
  • Poorly controlled diabetes, as evidenced by a high hemoglobin A1c and a high fasting glucose
  • Poorly functioning kidney, as evidenced by increased BUN (blood urea nitrogen) and blood creatinine
  • Poorly functioning liver, as evidenced by increased blood liver function tests
  • Hypertension (increased blood pressure), especially if it is poorly controlled
  • Poor nutritional status (malnutrition with mineral and vitamin deficiencies)
  • Poor lung function, as evidenced by abnormal lung function tests
  • History of bleeding disorders
  • Longstanding illness, such as autoimmune disorders and chronic infections
  • Poor immune system due to a variety of causes

The possible risks or complications that may arise during the Dental Cavity Fillings include:

  • Anesthetic complications
  • Allergic reaction to the material used in filling
  • Damage of tooth during the procedure

What Post-Operative Care is needed at the Healthcare Facility after the Dental Cavity Filling Procedure?

At the healthcare facility, usually there is no requirement for any post-procedure care, unless any complications arise.

After the Dental Cavity Filling Procedure:

What are the possible Risks and Complications after the Dental Cavity Filling Procedure?

The possible risks and complications that may arise after a Dental Cavity Filling procedure are:

  • Bleeding from the gums
  • The filling does not match the profile of the teeth
  • The filling comes off
  • There are micro-cracks on the filling
  • It looks unsightly

What is the Prognosis after the Surgery?

In a majority, the prognosis after a Dental Cavity Filling procedure is usually good and long-term benefits, sometimes, life-time benefits are observed. However, it is not a permanent solution and the filling may have to be replaced later, in some cases.

When do you need to call your Physician?

Do contact your physician if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • The filling falls-off or cracks
  • Pain or swelling around the gums and teeth
  • Bleeding or fluid drainage from region
  • Tooth sensitivity is observed
  • Signs of an infection
  • Headache
  • Fever, feeling sick
  • Dizziness

What Post-Operative Care is needed at Home after the Dental Cavity Filling Procedure?

At home, the following post-operative care is recommended after Dental Cavity Fillings:

  • Avoid food items, such as soft drinks, wine, coffee, etc., for a period of time; use straw if you need to drink these
  • Avoid smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Avoid very hot or cold food items for a few days following the procedure
  • Brush and floss regularly after taking food, or twice daily

How long does it normally take to fully recover, from the Procedure?

There is no recovery time involved and the individuals are able to resume full function of their teeth after a short duration following the procedure.

Additional Information:

What happens to tissue (if any), taken out during the Procedure?

Generally, the procedure does not involve the surgical removal of any tissue.

When should you expect results from the pathologist regarding tissue taken out, during the Procedure?

Usually, no tissue is sent for a pathological analysis.

Who will you receive a Bill from, after the Dental Cavity Filling Procedure?

It is important to note that the number of bills that the patient may receive depends on the arrangement the healthcare facility has with the physician and other healthcare providers.

Sometimes, the patient may get a single bill that includes the healthcare facility and the consultant physician charges. Sometimes, the patient might get multiple bills depending on the healthcare provider involved. For instance, the patient may get a bill from:

  • An out-patient surgery center facility, the dentist or oral surgeon’s clinic/office, or a hospital
  • An anesthesiologist (if anesthesia was administered)
  • A dentist

The patient is advised to inquire and confirm the type of billing, before the Dental Cavity Fillings procedure is performed.

Thanks and Gratitude:

We sincerely acknowledge and thank Dr. Douglas J. Jones for reviewing the article. His valuable input and feedback has helped enrich the contents of this article.

Douglas J. Jones, MD FACS
Board Certified General Surgeon and Faculty Member
University of Illinois, College of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign
506 S. Mathews Ave., Urbana, IL 61801, USA

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Feb. 21, 2018
Last updated: Feb. 21, 2018