One day you have this zinging pain every time you eat or drink, and the next you’re getting out of the dentist’s chair and everything is better!

If it weren’t for the needles and drills, it would almost seem magical – especially with the orange safety glasses and the blue curing light.

Of course, it’s not, but unless you’ve watched a dentist do their work, it’s hard to say what exactly is going on during a filling procedure!

You can’t see inside your mouth, after all.

So, in that spirit, we’re going to give you a behind-the-scenes peek at what exactly happens as your dentist gives you a filling.

Smiling Woman At Dentist

Step 1: Administer anesthetics

Once the patient has relaxed back into the big, comfy chair, the first order of business is to administer the anesthetic – or freezing. This is done a few ways, including sedation dentistry, the classic needle or even new, needle-less anesthetics!

While this is often the most ‘complained about’ part of the procedure, especially from patients who have a fear of needles, it’s much better than the alternative – a filling without any anesthetics (which is how they did it in the old days – yikes!)

Step 2: Remove decay

The reason we anesthetize patients is because the next step is to grind away and suck out all the dead and decaying matter from the cavity. To make sure the tooth remains healthy, every bit of decay needs to be removed, often with a drill.

Once the dentist is happy with the removal, they move on to the next step in the process.

Step 3: Place filling material

This is the step that the whole procedure is named after, and it is critical.

At this point, the patient has a large hole in their tooth where the decay used to be. If the tooth is left as is, it will not only hurt a lot but it will also gather food particles and begin the process of decay once again. 

So, instead of leaving it, the dentist uses one of three substances to fill the hole.

The options include:

  • Dental amalgam, which is the silvery filling that you often see inside peoples’ molars
  • Composite resin filling, which is white and almost indecipherable from normal tooth enamel
  • Gold, which is, well, gold 😎

Now that there’s a chunk of filling inside the tooth, it will feel very strange to bite down on. So now, the dentist must become a sculptor.

Step 4: Refine and shape

To leave your bite feeling normal, the dentist must now, once again, get out their drill to mould the filling so that it fits your natural bite. This is why they will ask you a couple of times during the final stages of the procedure to close your mouth and ‘see how it feels’.

Once they are satisfied that the filling matches your bite, the patient is given a rinse of water and sent on their merry way with their freshly filled tooth!