When damages to the tooth are limited, no exhaustive replacement measures are necessary. The affected tooth can usually be preserved and tended to with a filling. In most cases, the damage occurs in the form of tooth decay, however, accidents or heavy wear and tear can also result in the necessity of applying a dental filling.
First of all, the tooth needs to be freed from decay, cleaned, and disinfected. Afterwards, the surface is slightly roughened in order to ensure a more solid grip. Subsequently, a type of glue is applied which is responsible for holding the actual filling. While in soft condition, the dental filling is then inserted into the tooth and soon after hardened by means of blue light. This is also referred to as a malleable filling and is produced by the dentist on site, making it a very quick and routinely type of treatment.
However, it is also possible to work with so-called inlays or onlays which are usually custom-made in the lab. So-called Cerec inlays are an exception in that they can be manufactured directly in select practices. For this purpose, a measuring camera scans the tooth to be filled, followed by computerized data processing and the milling of the inlay out of a ceramic block within a short period of time. For the most part, however, inlays are produced in the lab by means of wax melting or computerized milling and are precisely inserted into the tooth. Onlays are needed to treat more extensive damages and usually cover the entire chewing surface of the tooth. Inlays and onlays tend to be more elaborate in terms of manufacturing than regular fillings, but also last for longer periods of time – possibly even for a lifetime. Particularly in the case of more extensive damages, inlays and onlays constitute a notable alternative.
Composite represents the most frequently used modern-day material; gold, ceramics or amalgam may also be applied, yet less commonly. Composite fillings consist of a tooth-colored, long-lasting, and dimensionally stable synthetic base; a simple composite filling is usually sufficient in the case of minor tooth decay. Whenever the cavity is larger or deeper, the dentist can also work with a layered composite filling, meaning the composite is individually applied in multiple layers. Gold is long-lasting but expensive and clearly visible. Ceramics are used primarily with inlays, are highly compatible and of high esthetic quality, but frequently incapable of withstanding heavy strains. Due to its dark color, amalgam is only applied in invisible areas nowadays. Due to its share of quicksilver, amalgam is controversial and therefore used less and less in modern-day dental medicine.