How long does a filling take to fill a tooth?

How long does a filling take to fill a tooth

A filling is a dental procedure to restore a broken or decayed tooth. A dentist carries out this procedure in the dental office. The time required to fill a tooth varies depending on the type of filling and material used. 

Types of dental fillings and time required to fill a tooth

The fillings are broadly classified into two main types, direct and indirect. 

Direct fillings 

Direct fillings are the most common type of fillings used to fill teeth. In this type of filling, the decay is removed with a dental drill. The tooth is then cleaned, dried, and filled with a filling at the same appointment..

Different types of materials are used for direct fillings. Dental amalgam (silver fillings) and composite (white tooth fillings) are frequently used as direct filling materials. 

It takes 20-30 minutes to place these fillings. 

Time and steps required to fill a composite filling

Composite fillings are technique sensitive and require a specific protocol for a successful and lasting filling. 

The benefit of composite fillings is that they require less tooth structure removal. It doesn’t require additional removal of a healthy tooth structure to make a box-shaped cavity. 

Once the decay is removed with a dental drill, the tooth enamel and dentin are etched with an enchant for 30 seconds to enhance the ability of the tooth to bond to the composite. The tooth is then washed and dried with a triple syringe. 

Next, a bonding agent is applied with an applicator and is left for a minute to dry. 

The composite is placed in small increments, and an individual increment is cured with a UV light for 30 seconds. Bulk filling leads to greater shrinkage of the material resulting in voids in the set filling. 

Composite fillings require strict moisture control at the site of the filling. Adequate suction and cotton pellets control the saliva. Any salivary contamination during filling can affect the longevity of the filling. 

Finally, the set filling is polished, and the bite is checked for accuracy. 

The whole process takes 20-30 minutes to fill a tooth. If you require fillings in multiple teeth, all the teeth requiring filling on the same side can be filled at once.  

For full article on composite fillings, click here.

Time and steps required to fill an amalgam filling

Amalgam is the second most common direct filling used to restore the teeth. However, amalgam has been replaced due to its poor appearance, mercury toxicity, and lack of ability to bond to the tooth. However, it is still used in developing countries because of its lower cost. 

Amalgam doesn’t bond to the teeth and therefore, requires a tapering box-shaped cavity to retain it in the tooth. 

For an amalgam restoration, the decay is removed with a dental drill, and a box-shaped cavity is made whose walls converge towards the tooth’s chewing surface. 

The mixed filling material is placed in the prepared, cleaned, and dried tooth. The filling is condensed with an instrument to remove voids and is carved according to the tooth’s shape. 

In the meantime, the filling sets and the excess filling material is removed, and finishing is done with a specific bur attached to the dental drill. 

The whole filling process takes 20-30 mins. 

Indirect fillings 

Indirect fillings are less frequently used to fill the teeth because of the increased cost and time required to place them. They usually require two or more appointments. These fillings are known as inlays and onlays. 

During the first appointment, the decay is removed, and the cavity is prepared. An impression of the cavity is taken and sent to the lab for the fabrication of the filling. 

In the next appointment, the prepared filling is glued to the tooth with a bonding agent. 

These fillings last longer than direct fillings and are reserved for teeth that have lost more than two walls. Dentists recommend inlays and onlays where the degree of tooth damage is greater and requires support by a strong lab-fabricated filling. 

Materials used to fill indirect fillings

The following materials are used to make indirect fillings

  • Dental composite
  • Zirconia
  • Lithium based 
  • PMMA
  • Glass-ceramics
  • Gold alloys 

CAD CAM technique for indirect fillings 

CAD CAM (computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing) is an advanced method of recording the impression of the prepared tooth and requires special equipment in the dental office.

This technique utilizes software to help design a prototype or product. A CAD software program converts electronic 3D images into a numerically controlled programming language that generates instructions for the CAM machine to make it. 

First step: Optical scanning to capture the tooth

An optical scanner captures the image of your tooth and surrounding structures. The sensors in the device capture the data points, and the software converts them into a 3D model. The electronic data is then sent to the laboratory. 

Step 2: The software converts the image to a digital model

The software prepares a digital filling on the created digital model based on the input of the information by the dental or laboratory professional. 

Step 3: Manufacturing the filling

Finally, a small milling machine connected to the computer grinds a ceramic block to precisely fit a cavity preparation. The 3D-printed filling is sent to the dental office and cemented to the teeth.

Some dental offices have 3D printing facilities in their practices and are not required to send electronic data to the CAD-CAM lab. In these practices, the whole process is completed in a single visit. 

How long do children take to fill a tooth?

Children have small teeth and require less time to fill a cavity than adult teeth. 

It is recommended to keep the appointment no longer than 20 min for children five years and below. A child’s cooperation is paramount for a lasting filling, as moisture control is critical for the success of fillings which is achieved by keeping the mouth open throughout the procedure. 

What to expect?

Be prepared for the following:

  • It is essential to have food before your appointment. You need to keep your mouth open for the entire filling and, therefore, requires a good energy level. 
  • Close your jaw several times to check your filling before leaving the dental office. If it feels high or feels any rough edge, ask your dentist to fix it. 
  • You may experience sensitivity in the tooth for a couple of days after the filling. 
  • Avoid eating on the side of the freshly placed amalgam filling for at least 24 hours to allow it to set completely.


The time required to fill a tooth varies depending on the filling used. 

Direct fillings take 20-30 to fill a tooth. Indirect fillings require two appointments and take longer to fabricate. 

Indirect fillings fabricated from the CAD-CAM technique take less preparation time and are delivered at the same appointment. 

Click to get into the details of time and procedure required for them

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