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As a result of decay or tooth wear fillings are used to fill holes (cavities) that have formed. There are many types of filling, each suitable for different cavities. Most people have a local anaesthetic injection to completely numb the area while the filling is being done. The numbness can take several hours to wear off. If you're nervous of having an injection, ask your dentist if you can have an anaesthetic gel applied to the appropriate area of the gum instead. This gel numbs the gum so you can't feel the needle.Sometimes temporary fillings are used, at emergency appointments for example, where there may not be enough time to do the full treatment. Temporary fillings can last for quite a long time, but they aren't very strong so you will need to arrange to have a durable filling placed within a few weeks.

Amalgam fillings

Amalgam is a combination of metals that has been used in dentistry for more than 100 years. It is still commonly used today. Although it sometimes is called "silver amalgam," amalgam actually consists of a combination of metals. These include silver, mercury, tin and copper, and small amounts of zinc, indium or palladium.

Tooth-coloured fillings

You can choose tooth-coloured fillings to match the colour of your teeth, making them a natural-looking alternative to amalgam fillings. They are often used in teeth that show when you smile or talk. They aren't as durable as amalgam and so aren't always suitable for the grinding and chewing surfaces of the back teeth.There are a few different types of tooth-coloured filling materials. The most common are called composite and glass ionomer. They are soft and can be moulded to the shape of a tooth before they harden. Tooth-coloured filling materials stick to teeth so they can be used to build up the edges of chipped or worn teeth.  Tooth-coloured fillings must be kept completely dry until they have set, so the dentist will take special precautions to keep saliva away from the area. This may include placing a sheet of rubber over your tooth (called a rubber dam). This only stays in place during the treatment.  Glass ionomers can release fluoride which prevents decay. They aren't very durable and are usually used for children's teeth, small back fillings or fillings on root surfaces.  With the development of tooth-colored materials to restore teeth, amalgam is used less often than in the past. However, the newer materials can't be used for all situations. Amalgam is less costly than other materials. It also holds up better over time, especially in teeth that undergo a lot of pressure and wear from chewing.