Types of Dental Fillings

It used to be that cavities–bad tooth decay caused by plaque–were treated with a metal filling. In today’s age of modern dental advancement, there are many ways to treat cavities using different fillings. It is important to fill a cavity as soon as you notice it so that the cavity does not progress and affect the nerves and deep tissue within your teeth.

When your dentist notices you have a cavity, he or she will remove the decayed tissue so that it does not harm the mouth and will insert a material filling to prevent the tooth from further damage and decay. Before doing the procedure a local anesthetic will be applied to numb the surrounding tissue. A dental drill will then be used to remove the dead tissue and prepare the tooth for filling. Don’t let the terminology scare you–with the numbing agent in place the dental drill will hurt you no more than the average dental routine.

The types of fillings you can choose vary depending on what you and your dentist decide on:

Amalgam fillings. Amalgam fillings are the oldest type of filling and have been used for over a hundred years. Amalgam is a resilient combination of silvery metals and is highly visible in the mouth when placed in the front teeth, so it is usually more suited for teeth in the back of the mouth. The metals have been proven safe by the FDA and are a suitable alternative filling.

Composite fillings. Composite is a tooth-colored material made of glass or quartz and resin. Composite fillings are more durable in the long run than amalgam, and have the benefit of matching the natural tooth color. They are more costly than amalgam and can take longer to place, but are good if you take care of your teeth regularly since composite is prone to staining.

Glass ionomer fillings. Glass ionomers are also tooth-colored like composite fillings, but are made of acrylic and glass. These are good for cavities at the root surfaces of the teeth, and can release fluoride to help protect the teeth from further decay. These fillings are less durable than amalgam and composite fillings, however, so they should be applied in areas of the mouth where there is minimal friction from chewing.

Resin ionomer fillings. This resin filling is similar to a glass ionomer, and are equally natural-looking and made from acrylic and glass.They have added resin so they can fill small cavities between teeth or on the root surfaces.

Custom filling. Sometimes, when the cavity is large enough or may lead to additional decay, a dentist will make a laboratory filling to specially mold to the teeth. This involves a custom inlay that fills the removed portion of the tooth with a crown that covers the top and sides to hold the piece together. It will take several visits to create this custom restoration, and they are made from any porcelain, metal, or composite. The material will vary depending on how sensitive your mouth is to other materials and whether the tooth is in the front or back of the mouth.

If you are considering a filling, call our office so a dentist can discuss your options and which one will benefit you cosmetically and orally. There are disadvantages and advantages to each, so talk to us today.