Hesperian Health Guides

When to Place a Filling

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HealthWiki > Where There Is No Dentist > Chapter 10: How to Fill a Cavity > When to Place a Filling


a dental worker tapping a woman's teeth while speaking with her.
Did that hurt?
Only a little.

You can fill a cavity if the tooth does not have an abscess. There is probably not yet an abscess if:

  • there is no swelling of the face or gums near the bad tooth.
  • the tooth hurts only once in a while — for example, if it hurts only when eating or drinking something cold or sweet, or when breathing cold air.
  • the tooth feels the same as the others when you tap it gently.

These signs mean that the decay is deep enough for the nerve to feel temperature changes, but not near enough to the nerve to be infected. So there is not an abscess. You can save the tooth by filling the cavity as soon as possible.

What a filling can do

A filling can help a person in three ways:

  • It stops food, air, and water from entering the cavity. This will stop much discomfort and pain.
  • It stops the decay from growing deeper. This can prevent a tooth abscess.
  • It can help save the tooth, so the person can use it for many more years.



This page was updated:19 Feb 2018