Cavity treatment is one of the most common forms of dental work.
I should know, because I studied up like a medical student when I was told I had to get dental fillings to eliminate some cavities on a few of my back molars.
I was disappointed that I’d need to get the treatment done at all. I had gone my whole life with just 1 filling — and now I needed 3. Then again, I hadn’t been to the dentist in years (exactly what you shouldn’t do if you don’t want cavities!) so I really can’t complain that I needed only 3 fillings.
How bad was my experience? What’s it like to get a cavity filled? What’s the process of cavity treatment like? How long do the fillings last? And what do they cost?
My dental sleuthing has turned up the answers to those questions and more when I was preparing to get my dental fillings.
Does It Hurt To Get A Filling?
Getting a filling doesn’t usually hurt unless the cavity is right near the gum line.
My cavities were on top of the molars and were not at all painful to have filled since they didn’t penetrate very deep into the tooth enamel. But from what I understand, very deep fillings — regardless of where they are located — may hurt a bit if they are very close to the nerves inside the pulp chamber of your tooth.
Under usual circumstances, when you get anesthetized by a needle, you normally won’t feel any pain while you’re getting your cavity filled. You may, however, feel slight pressure as the dentists drills away the decay. If you’re nervous about getting a shot from a needle, the dentist may be able to numb the injection site with a numbing cream before the anesthesia injection.
How Long Does It Take To Get Dental Fillings?
The biggest factors here are the size and location of the fillings necessary.
My fillings were relatively simple, and each was drilled and filled in about 15 minutes.
Really, the longest part of getting a cavity filled is waiting for the anesthesia to kick in. That can take 5 minutes or more, depending on the individual.
Deeper cavities — especially those near the base of the tooth, in between teeth, or those that reach into the nerve area — may take much longer to treat.
How Much Do Dental Fillings Cost?
The cost of getting a cavity filled largely depends on the size and location of the filling (your dentist will refer to it as the number of surfaces involved) and whether or not you need a more involved treatment plan — such as a root canal and subsequent crown.
Even the type of dental filling you get (porcelain, silver amalgam, gold, etc.) will determine the price you’ll pay.
The good news is that dental fillings are commonly covered on most dental insurance plans, so your out-of-pocket expenses may be only half (or less) of the total cost.
Even better news: fillings are one of the lower-cost types of dental services, behind routine teeth exams and cleanings. So, if you only need a simple tooth filling, you most likely won’t be paying a fortune to get it — especially if the work is covered by your insurance.
How Long Do Fillings Usually Last?
This answer is based on the type of filling you get.
Many dental fillings last 7 to 10 years or more, and the highest-quality fillings — especially those that are well taken care of — may actually last a lifetime.
Here’s a look at the most common types of dental fillings and the average amount of time they can be expected to last:
- Amalgam fillings: 12 years
- Gold foil fillings: 10 to 15 years
- Composite resin fillings: 7 to 10 years
- Cast gold fillings: 7 years or more
- Porcelain/Ceramic fillings: 5 to 7 years
No matter what type of filling you get, if you follow up with your dentist twice a year, brush twice a day, floss once a day, and take good care of your teeth, you should be able to avoid getting cavities down the road. And that’s something to smile about, right?