Types of Tooth Fillings
Most people will experience a cavity or two at some point in their life, as they continue to be frequent oral ailments. Today there are many choices that can be made about what type of filling one prefers as well as which material it is made from, empowering patients to make choices and express their preferences when submitting themselves to this very common dental procedure.
The traditional filling – what most people think of when they hear the word – is a direct filling. This is a filling whereby the dentist literally fills the tooth with the filling material after cleaning out the decayed matter and then molds the top of it into a shape that mimics that of other teeth around it before it is hardened with a special ultraviolet light. Direct fillings are a practical and economical choice that still allow for preferences surrounding materials to be expressed.
There are three primary materials that are used in direct fillings: amalgam, composite, and resin or glass ionomer. The most traditional material is amalgam; this is a metal alloy blended with mercury that has been determined by the FDA to be safe to use inside the mouth in this way. The benefits of amalgam include strength, durability, and cost-effectiveness; one drawback is the simple presence of a flash of silver in the mouth, which some prefer to avoid.
Composite is a more aesthetically pleasing choice for some because it can be custom shaded to blend in seamlessly with the rest of the patient’s smile. Made of a mix of acrylic and glass, composite fillings are a popular choice for this very reason. They are, however, a bit more costly than amalgam fillings and are also somewhat less durable; they are usually a better choice for filling smaller cavities rather than larger ones and perform best when positioned away from the surfaces that take the brunt of large amounts of force in terms of biting and chewing.
Finally, resin or glass ionomer is typically used to fill baby teeth, as it can fill small cavities in small teeth. When used to fill small cavities in the permanent teeth of adults, it is important that they are positioned, like composite fillings, away from areas that absorb a lot of force.
Indirect fillings, in contract to direct fillings, require more than one visit and are generally used in cases in which tooth decay has compromised the structure of the tooth. First, your dentist will take an impression of the area and place a temporary crown to protect the area. Then, she or he will create a custom restoration for the tooth that will then be cemented on to the area at your next visit.
Indirect fillings can be composed of gold or porcelain, depending on your preferences surrounding strength, durability, and appearance. While gold is the strongest and most durable material, it is also the most expensive, and will be more visible in the mouth. For this reason, porcelain, though more fragile, is a popular option due to the fact that it blends in quite seamlessly with the rest of the patient’s teeth.