What you need to know about cavities

Jan 12, 2023

Cavities are very common and the most frequent cause of kids’ absence from school. Studies show that up to 90 percent of adults have had a cavity at some point in their life. If you have recently noticed that you have a cavity, the natural next question is, “What now?” The size and depth of the cavity will determine how the procedure will go. If you detect a cavity early, your Perth dentist will want to conduct a dental filling procedure that shouldn’t be too invasive. If the cavity is more significant, you might require a dental crown or an inlay/onlay.


  • The procedure followed when filling a dental cavity
  • Materials used to fill a dental cavity
  • Resin
  • Ceramic
  • Silver
  • Gold
  • Composite

If you or your child has a cavity, you are not alone, as millions of cavities are diagnosed daily. About 90% of adults have had a cavity, and among kids, cavities constitute the main reasons why they may miss school.

You may not know what to do next after your dentist finds you have a cavity. Usually, what you do when you have been told you have a cavity will depend on:

  • The severity of the cavity
  • Whether the cavity is discovered early or not

When the cavity is discovered early, your dentist will recommend a dental filling procedure. Different types of fillings are available for you to choose from based on:

  • What you and your dentist believe is appropriate for your type of cavity.
  • Your budget

The procedure is followed when filling a dental cavity.

Here is what a dentist does when filling a tooth cavity:

  • Administers a local anesthetic to numb the area around the tooth with a cavity to reduce or eliminate any pain
  • Isolates the tooth to prevent contamination
  • It keeps the isolated tooth dry. This can be done using some kind of guard or dental appliance.
  • It removes the decayed area of the tooth. There are special tools, including a laser, drill or air abrasion instrument, designed for this procedure based on the severity and the location of the cavity in the mouth.
  • Thoroughly cleans the teeth after the decay is removed and before filing. This ensures there is no bacteria or any debris that may cause problems for you in future.
  • Applies the filling material
  • Uses special light to cure or harden the filling
  • Tests your bite to ensure proper alignment
  • Finalizes by polishing the filling to ensure it is as smooth as your other teeth

Materials used to fill a dental cavity.

The following are some of the materials your dentist can use to fill your tooth cavity:

  • Resin
  • Ceramic
  • Silver
  • Gold
  • Composite


Resin fillings are also known as glass ionomers and are mostly used to fill small areas of decay, such as those below the gum line or in children. Because resin fillings are delicate, they are never placed in areas of extreme pressure like chewing.


Ceramic fillings, also known as porcelain fillings, have the benefit of a more natural appearance. They, however, have the following downsides:

  • They are more fragile compared to metal fillings
  • Filling using ceramic takes more than a single visit to the doctor as they must be created in the laboratory first


Amalgam, in other words, silver fillings, has been used for over a century. They consist of a mixture of metals, including:

  • Silver
  • Mercury
  • Tin
  • Copper
  • Zinc

Silver fillings are preferred because:

  • They are among the most affordable cavity filling options
  • They are durable and long-lasting
  • They are dark coloured hence easy to see during the procedure

Despite the above advantages, the use of silver fillings may be discouraged because they contain mercury, a known toxic element associated with certain illnesses. Health experts have downplayed any risks in using amalgam fillings.

They argue that:

  • There is no proof that silver fillings cause harm
  • The amount of mercury used in silver fillings is minute
  • Mercury mixes with the other elements in amalgam fillings to create stable alloys


Gold fillings are recognized for both good and bad sides.

Why gold is preferred:

  • Strongest and the most durable tooth cavity filling option
  • You spend little time at the dentist

Why gold may not be preferred:

  • Gold fillings are the most expensive of all the options.
  • Insurance companies may not be willing to pay for them.
  • They are associated with galvanic shock. This refers to sharp temporary pain when gold interacts with saliva or is placed next to a silver filling.
  • Are very visible


Composite is a mixture of powdered glass and acrylic resin.

They are popular for the following reasons:

  • Compared to the other options, composite can be colour-matched to your natural teeth.
  • They bond to the teeth, unlike the other options; hence can provide support.
  • Not as many teeth need to be worn down during the filling procedure.

Why composite may not be preferred:

  • They are less durable compared to the metal options
  • They can chip

There are many different types of filling materials to consider when you have been diagnosed with a tooth cavity. Always discuss the most appropriate filling material with qualified dentists. Contact the trusted Perth dentist at Herriott Street Dental for your cavity-filling consultation and procedure.