It’s never a great feeling when the dentist tells you that you have a cavity, especially when you’ve been diligently brushing and flossing to keep your teeth healthy. The next step after a cavity is discovered is typically a dental filling. Fillings come in several different materials that have their own advantages and disadvantages, so let’s take a look!
Amalgam fillings are what you might think of as “silver” dental fillings, though they’re actually composed of a mixture of tin, copper, silver, and mercury. The reason dentists have been using them for so long is that they are strong and long-lasting, and they are also the least expensive option. However, they expand and contract differently from the tooth so they break teeth over time and they corrode and stain teeth grey. Even if they don’t stain the teeth, they’re very noticeable and tend to darken over time, so if you want something that blends in, amalgam fillings probably aren’t the ones you want.
Composite dental fillings are made of acrylic resin and powdered glass. Unlike amalgam fillings, they can be colored to match your teeth, which is part of what makes them so popular. They do wear out faster, though, and aren’t always the best choice for teeth that take the greatest chewing pressure.
Gold fillings aren’t made of pure gold, just like amalgam fillings aren’t made of pure silver, but they are some of the most durable fillings available, capable of lasting more than two decades. They can’t corrode like amalgam fillings, they’re very strong and they are kind to your gums. Most dentists think this is the best type of filling to place. Unfortunately, they are expensive and take 2 appointments to complete. Finally, they are noticeable so we don’t place them where they can be seen.
Porcelain fillings are another tooth-colored option, and with today’s ceramics they’re strong! From a function standpoint these fillings are the 2nd best way to replace your natural tooth structure and I don’t hesitate to recommend them. However, for patients who like best option dentistry, these are usually their top choice because they are long lasting, strong, non-staining and tooth-colored. The drawbacks of porcelain fillings are that they are require 2 appointments, and they are also as expensive as gold.
The final type of filling is resin or glass ionomer fillings. These are made of acrylic and fluoroaluminosilicate, a component of glass. They are typically used as cement for inlay fillings, and for fillings when the decay extends into the root of the tooth. They are also used on baby teeth. Weaker than composite resin, glass ionomer fillings might only last around five years, and they don’t match the color of teeth as closely.
No matter what filling you get, your tooth will still need plenty of love and care!
Still have questions about the different types of fillings? Just ask us! You should also come see us if you’ve noticed any problems with existing fillings, such as damage or a separation between the filling and the tooth. A loose or damaged filling could lead to worse complications for the tooth, so don’t wait to schedule your appointment!