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The Different Types of Fillings

October 5th, 2017

The Different Types of Fillings

The Different Types of Fillings

Good news: the number of cavities and the need for fillings has decreased as modern dental practices have made it easier for people to better care for their teeth. However, some cavities still happen. Fortunately, there are more types of fillings for teeth today than ever before. Fillings vary in complexity and material. Some are direct fillings, placed "directly" in a cavity, although others are indirect, wherein an impression of the tooth is taken and a custom filling is created to fit around it. If your dentist suggests a tooth restoration, knowing what's available can help you make the best choice for your mouth.

When is a filling used?

To treat a cavity, your dentist will remove the decayed portion of the tooth and then "fill" the area on the tooth where the decayed material was removed. Fillings are also used to repair cracked or broken teeth and teeth that have been worn down from misuse.

What Steps Are Involved in Filling a Tooth?

First, the dentist will use a local anesthetic to numb the area around the tooth to be filled. Next, a drill, air abrasion instrument, or laser will be used to remove the decayed area. Then your dentist will probe or test the area to determine if all the decay has been removed. Once the decay has been removed, the dentist will prepare the space for the filling by cleaning the cavity of bacteria and debris. If the decay is near the root, your dentist may first put in a liner made of glass ionomer, composite resin, or other material to protect the nerve. Generally, after the filling is in, your dentist will finish and polish it.

Types of Fillings:
Amalgam

You might think of amalgam fillings for teeth as a classic option. As the name suggests, amalgam fillings are made up of a mixture of metals. They’re typically comprised of about 50 percent mercury, along with tin, copper, silver or zinc. Compared to other types, amalgam fillings have a few things going for them: they are the least pricey option, and they're also very strong and long lasting. Amalgam fillings aren't without drawbacks, though. They're silver in color to start and tend to become darker with time, making them fairly easy to notice when you open your mouth. Although the FDA has determined that the level of mercury in the filling is safe for people over the age of six, you may prefer not to have a filling made from this material.

Composite
A composite tooth filling, typically made of powdered glass and acrylic resin, offers a few advantages over an amalgam filling. For one, the filling can be shaded to match the color of a person's existing teeth, making it much less visible. People desire natural-looking smiles, making composite fillings a popular choice. Composite fillings can bond directly to the tooth, which makes the tooth stronger than it would be with an amalgam filling. Nonetheless, this type of filling isn't always the right pick. The material it's made from is less durable than a mix of metals, such as in amalgam. Therefore, the life of a composite filing isn't always as long as other options. It's perfect as a small filling, and best suited for teeth that experience a moderate amount of pressure when chewing, compared to teeth that handle the bulk of your chewing action.

Gold
When it comes to dental fillings, you can do much worse than gold. It's one of the most durable and long-lasting options, with the ADA noting that it can remain effective for more than two decades. Of course, that durability comes at a price, as gold fillings are among the most expensive. They're usually indirect fillings, as well, so you'll need to spend more time in a dentist's chair to receive one. 

Porcelain
Porcelain fillings are similar to gold. They are a form of indirect filling, usually require more than one visit to the dentist and tend to be pricey. However, they're also different from gold fillings in a few important way: On the one hand, they are much more fragile. On the other, they look like actual teeth and can help you maintain a natural appearance.

Resin or Glass Ionomer
Glass ionomer is used most commonly as cement for inlay fillings. It also is used for fillings in front teeth, or around the necks of your teeth, or in roots. As filling material, glass ionomer is typically used in people with a lot of decay in the part of the tooth that extends below the gum. It is also used for filling baby teeth and as a liner for other types of fillings. When used on a permanent tooth, this type of filling is usually placed in a spot that isn't subject to extreme pressure or chewing action because they tend to be very delicate.

How should I care for my teeth with fillings?
To maintain fillings, you should follow good oral hygiene: visit your dentist regularly for cleanings, brush with a fluoride toothpaste, floss frequently and use an antibacterial mouthwash at least once daily. If your dentist suspects that a filling might be cracked or is "leaking" (this happens when the sides of the filling don't fit tightly against the tooth, allowing debris and saliva to seep down between the filling and the tooth, which can lead to decay) they will take X-rays to assess the situation. If your tooth is extremely sensitive, if you feel a sharp edge, if you notice a crack in the filling, or if a piece of the filling is missing, call your dentist for an appointment.

If you have any questions about fillings, call Winning Smiles to schedule an appointment with your dentist – 716-332-2444.