dental fillings

What are the types of dental fillings and which is the best?

If you have a cavity the dentist will recommend that you get a filling. They will remove the decayed portion of the tooth and then fill the area with strong material. What material is used can vary, and what is used depends on a number of factors, like cost, location of the filling, the extent of the decay, and the insurance coverage. 

The filling is important because it prevents further tooth decay and will maintain the health of your tooth. With all the many filling options that can be used, it’s important to understand just what the advantages and disadvantages of each material are. 

What different materials are used?

The materials used in fillings include gold, silver amalgam, composite resins, and even materials like zirconia and porcelain. When you first consult with your dentist they will go over the different options for materials that are available and the extent of the cavities that need to be filled. 

Each of these factors will play an important role in determining which material to use for the filling. 

White Fillings

White fillings, also known as composite fillings, are made from powdered glass quartz, silica or other ceramic particles that are added to a resin base. After the tooth is prepared, the filling is then bonded to the cavity area. Next, light is shone on the filling in order to set it. The dentist will be able to set the filling color to the color of your teeth, creating a near-invisible filling. 

White fillings have the advantage of being very well suited for front teeth or other visible parts of the teeth. The composite filling will actually bond to the tooth structure, which helps to reinforce the structure of the tooth. This kind of filling is very versatile in their uses and they can be used to repair teeth that are chipped, broken or worn. They also potentially spare the most tooth structure compared to other fillings, and less of the tooth needs to be removed in order to create room for the filling. 

But, white fillings do have some disadvantages that should be carefully considered. They are not as durable as amalgam fillings, and they typically last five years, where amalgams last 10 to 15 years. They also don’t tend to hold up as long if they are used for large cavities. 

They can also take a longer time to place, as they require some time for the resin to set. You may also need to go to multiple visits to the dentist in order to place the filling. The white filling may also chip, depending on the location. They also can cost almost double the cost of amalgam fillings.

Silver Amalgam Fillings

Silver amalgam fillings are not actually made just from silver. They are actually a combination of mercury and silver alloy. They are often 50% silver, 30% silver, and 15% tin, copper, and other metals. Amalgams are long-lasting and hard-wearing and they have been in safe use for over 150 years.

Amalgam fillings are durable and can last up to 15 to 20 years. They are often used as fillings for cavities for molars and other chewing teeth. 

While mercury is normally poisonous, the combination of it and other metals in the dental amalgam render it harmless. The chemical nature of the fillings changes, making it safe. With over 100 years of research and use, there has been no reputable study has found a connection between amalgam fillings and any medical problem.

There are some disadvantages to the use of amalgams, which include the destruction of more tooth structure. The cavity must be enlarged to create a space large enough to hold the amalgam filling. It can also discolor the tooth, giving it a grayish hue to the surrounding tooth structure. It is possible that the tooth will expand and contract in the presence of hot and cold liquids causing cracks and fractures. And in less than 1% of people, they may experience an allergic reaction to the mercury in the filling.

Gold Fillings

While gold fillings may be a surprising material to use as a filling, they are more than a vanity statement. Gold is one of the most long-lasting and durable materials. It can last many years, without tarnishing. One difference between the gold and the silver amalgam filling is that the gold is made in a laboratory. 

The dentist will generally place a temporary filling. Once the gold filling is made, the dentist will fix it in place with dental cement. The gold fillings can last 10 to 15 years and often last longer. Some people find them even more attractive than silver fillings. They do tend to cost more than silver fillings, often by a factor of ten or more. They will require multiple office visits in order to place them.

If a gold filling is placed next to a silver filling it can cause a sharp shock a the silver and old make an electric current called a galvanic shock. This is a very rare occurrence, however.

Zirconia Fillings

Some fillings are made out of ceramics like zirconia. They have the advantage of being resistant to staining and can last as long as 15 years. They can cost as much as a gold filling. Porcelain inlays are made in a laboratory and they will require at least two visits from your dentist. Porcelain is a hard and long-lasting and often matched in the color of your tooth.

A similar filling option is glass ionomer fillings. These actually bond chemically with the tooth. They release fluoride which is naturally present in your saliva and helps to prevent further tooth decay. The filling is fairly weak, so it is often only used for baby teeth and on non-biting surfaces such as the base of the teeth. There is some preparation that will be required in order to have a filling bound directly to the teeth.

Which Filling Material Is For Me?

Selecting the right filling material is a complex question. The best way to choose is to review with your dentist which filling material will fit your situation and your budget. Look at what your insurance will cover and what other financial options are available should you need them.

If you are interested in seeing what filling material options, and you live in Upland, CA, give the Upland Dental Group & Implant Center a call for your consultation at (909) 985-1966. Our expert team will be more than happy to answer your questions.