A dental filling is a way to restore a tooth damaged by decay back to its normal function and shape. If you have a tooth that requires a filling, the dentist will first remove the decayed tooth material, clean the affected area, and then fill the cleaned out cavity with a filling material. A dental filling also helps prevent further decay by closing off any cracks or spaces where bacteria can enter.
There are a variety of dental filling materials available including resin, ionomer, and porcelain. We will work with you to determine which material is best for you, depending on the extent of repair, where in your mouth the filling is needed, and cost. Each of the filling materials are briefly explained below:
- Composite (plastic) resins are custom made to the exact color of your natural teeth, creating a more natural appearance. While white fillings may be less noticeable than other materials, they usually only last between 3 and 10 years. They may not be ideal for large fillings as they may chip or wear over time. They can also become stained from coffee, tea or tobacco.
- Porcelain fillings are called inlays or onlays and are custom created in a lab and then bonded to the tooth. They can be matched to the color of the tooth, resist staining, and are about the same cost as gold fillings. A porcelain restoration generally covers most of the tooth, making the filling nearly undetectable.
- Glass ionomers are a great alternative for areas that cannot withstand heavy chewing pressure. They are tooth colored materials that can release small amounts of fluoride helping children at high risk for cavities. Glass ionomers are about as expensive as composite resin. The fillings do not wear as well as composite resin fillings.
- Dental amalgams (silver fillings) although rarely, almost never used in our office, dental amalgam is still a common material used to fill cavities. It is a combination of metals that has been used in dentistry for more than 100 years. Although it sometimes is called “silver amalgam,” amalgam actually consists of a combination of metals. These include silver, mercury, tin and copper, and small amounts of zinc, indium or palladium. The mercury, in the amalgams, is what binds all these elements together. Over the years, concerns have been raised about the use of amalgam because of its mercury content and the issue has been studied extensively. Yet researchers have not found evidence of significant health problems related to the use of amalgam in fillings. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has evaluated research on the safety of dental amalgam and has not found any reason to limit its use. They are a more inexpensive choice and are tolerant to wear. However, due to their dark color they are more noticeable than porcelain or composite restorations.
Are you interested in dental fillings for your child? Please call us or schedule an appointment online here.