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Filling You in About Fillings

Whether you’ve had a cavity or not, you probably have heard of fillings. Also called dental restorations, fillings restore the tooth structure that is lost to decay. The damaged areas of the tooth caused by decay are called cavities.

How do we get cavities?

Everyone has bacteria in their mouths. This bacteria feeds on sugars found in the food we consume and produces an acid which eats away at the outer protective layer of the tooth, called enamel. If left untreated, the decay can go deeper into the tooth eventually reaching the center where nerves and blood vessels are located which can be extremely painful.

Fillings to the Rescue

After the decayed tooth material is cleaned out by the dentist, material is “filled in” to restore the shape and structure of the tooth. This filling material also helps to prevent the decay from spreading by closing off any entry points where decay-causing bacteria may enter.

Fillings Don’t Last Forever

Fillings can last several years but the constant pressure of chewing, clenching, or teeth grinding (bruxism) may cause the filling to wear down, crack, or chip off. This can often result in an opening for food particles and bacteria to enter increasing the risk of additional decay to the tooth. If the decay is too extensive and there isn’t enough remaining tooth structure to support a filling, a crown may be the best option. Crowns are a more involved and costly treatment compared to fillings. That’s why it’s so important to keep up with your regular dental checkups, especially if you have a history of cavities.

What are my options for filling materials?

The two types of fillings commonly available to patients are amalgam and composite.


Amalgam has been used to treat cavities for over 150 years on hundreds of millions of patients. Liquid mercury is binded to an alloy mixture of silver, tin, and copper to form an amalgam. The properties of amalgam make it a strong, long-lasting, and inexpensive material for fillings. In recent years, the use of mercury has been called into question but the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Dental Association (ADA) supports the use of amalgam fillings for children and adults over 6 years old.


Composite fillings are typically made with resin-based materials which are initially soft but cured to full strength after exposure to a blue curing light. Composite fillings have a greater aesthetic appeal as they can be color-matched to your natural teeth and will not darken the tooth like amalgam. While they can last several years, bruxism may wear down a composite filling more quickly than amalgam.

Carmel Mountain Dental Care is committed to being your oral health care partner. If you have any questions about cavities, fillings, or any other oral health-related concerns; we recommend scheduling a complimentary consultation with Dr. Jonathan Lee or Dr. Marie Moeckel by calling our office at 858-484-4880. Carmel Mountain Dental Care is proud to provide exception dental care to the San Diego North County communities of Rancho Peñasquitos, Carmel Mountain Ranch, Carmel Valley, Del Sur, 4S Ranch, Rancho Bernardo, and Poway.

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