What is Involved With a Dental Filling Procedure?

Here is the commonest question answered first: “Will it Hurt?” NO!  Your dentist will ensure that you do not feel pain while having a dental filling procedure.  This will be ensured by numbing the nerve of the tooth with the use of local anesthesia.

Note that not all fillings will require anesthetic, for example:

Now let’s look at the treatment in more detail:


Dental Filling Procedure: The Steps Involved

1.  Preparing the Tooth

If there is decay present in the tooth, this needs to be removed before the tooth is filled. Removal of decay involves the use of dental drills. One of these drills may result in some vibration being felt. Laser technology is being developed to reduce the need for drilling in the future.

Once the decay is removed the tooth may need some further adjustment to make room for the restoration.

"Drills Used in Dental Filling Procedure"


2.  Before the Dental Filling is Placed

The dentist may place a protective liner or base to protect the nerve under the cavity.

If the restoration is to be bonded to the tooth, as is the cased with a white filling, then a chemical is applied to clean (etch) the tooth to help strengthen this bond.  The bonding agent is then applied and a blue light is used to set the bond.

A metal or plastic band may be placed around the cavity before the restoration is placed.  This band helps the dentist shape the filling.


3.  Placing the Filling

The exact dental filling procedure used here will vary according to the material being used.

If amalgam is being used, it is packed into the cavity and carved into shape before it sets. Amalgam begins setting immediately but takes 24 hours to set fully.

White fillings involve a more time-consuming process. The white filling material, in the appropriate color, is added in thin layers. Each layer is made to set/harden using a blue ‘curing’ light.  The tooth must be kept dry during this stage.  Your dentist may place a ‘dental dam‘ to keep the tooth dry. Once the restoration has been built up in layers, it will require final shaping in order to sculpt the filling into its final shape.   It is then polished to give it a nice smooth surface, ending the dental filling procedure.


After-care Advice for Fillings 

Once a tooth has been filled, it will require exactly the same care as an unfilled tooth.  A filling in a tooth replaces damaged tooth only, it does not prevent further decay.  Therefore to prevent further decay you need to:toothpaste

  • Brush your teeth twice a day using fluoride toothpaste, using a careful technique.
  • Your dentist may recommend the use of a fluoride mouthwash.
  • Clean between the teeth every day.
  • Stick to a tooth-kind diet, keeping sugary snacks/drinks to a minimum.
  • Visit your dentist as often as they recommend.
See our page on dental decay prevention for more advice.


In addition to reducing the risks of decay, you will need to watch for any physical damage to the filling.  Even the strongest restorations are not as strong as natural tooth.  Therefore avoid biting hard objects such as your fingernails and pens.  Watch for very hard foods in your diet such as toffees.  Front white fillings (dental bondings) are particularly at risk from being knocked out with a hard object.

Visiting your dentist regularly will enable him/her to check for any decay or early signs of damage to a restoration.

Also visit your dentist if you are experiencing any problems such as a crack in the filling or if the tooth is sensitive.



The main question people ask about the dental filling procedure is whether it will hurt or not.  The short answer is no, there is no reason why getting a dental filling should hurt with modern dentistry techniques.   The exact procedure will depend on the type of material being placed.


Now that you know that the dental filling procedure shouldn’t hurt, you may want to read what problems can occur after one is placed, including tooth pain after fillings.

Alternatively, you can return to the main page on fillings.

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