Fri, May 3, 2013
So, your dentist tells you that you have a cavity and need a filling. What exactly does that mean and what is a filling? When your tooth has decay present, that decay needs to be removed by the dentist. Once the decay is gone, the dentist will need to place a filling where the decay used to be. A filling is the most conservative way of restoring a tooth.
A dental filling is a type of restorative dentistry treatment used to repair minimal tooth fractures, tooth decay or otherwise damaged surfaces of the teeth. Dental filling materials, which include composite, porcelain and silver amalgam, may be used to even out tooth surfaces for better biting or chewing.
Improvements in oral health mean the need for fillings generally is on the decline. Thorough and regular cleaning of your teeth and a healthy diet can help to eliminate dental decay and avoid the need for fillings. Regular dental check-ups will make sure any problems are identified and treated early.
Dental fillings are used to restore teeth and treat tooth decay, especially in the molars (back teeth). These teeth do most of the heavy chewing of the food we eat, so wear and tear is inevitable. A dentist or oral health professional uses a drill and other instruments to remove the decay. The hole is cleaned and dried, and then sealed with a filling material. Types of filling material include:
- · Dental amalgam
- · Tooth-coloured fillings
Other forms of tooth restoration, such as gold or ceramic crowns, are an expensive alternative to amalgam and tooth-coloured filling materials.
Which Type of Filling is Best?
No one type of filling is best for everyone. What’s right for you will be determined by the extent of the repair, whether you have allergies to certain materials, where in your mouth the filling is needed, and the cost. Considerations for different materials include:
- Gold fillings are made to order in a laboratory and then cemented into place. Gold inlays are well tolerated by gum tissues, and may last more than 20 years. For these reasons, many authorities consider gold the best filling material. However, it is often the most expensive choice and requires multiple visits.
- Amalgam (silver) fillings are resistant to wear and relatively inexpensive. However, due to their dark color, they are more noticeable than porcelain or composite restorations and are not usually used in very visible areas, such as front teeth.
- Composite (plastic) resins are matched to be the same color as your teeth and therefore used where a natural appearance is desired. The ingredients are mixed and placed directly into the cavity, where they harden. Composites may not be the ideal material for large fillings as they may chip or wear over time. They can also become stained from coffee, tea or tobacco, and do not last as long as other types of fillings generally from three to 10 years.
- Porcelain fillings are called inlays or onlays and are produced to order in a lab and then bonded to the tooth. They can be matched to the color of the tooth and resist staining. A porcelain restoration generally covers most of the tooth. Their cost is similar to gold.
- Ceramic fillings are made of porcelain and are both durable as well as aesthetically pleasing. The material is more expensive than the other filling materials, but ceramics are tooth-colored and more resistant to staining and abrasion than composite resin. The disadvantages of using ceramic is that it is more brittle than its composite counter-part and it needs to be large enough to prevent it from breaking, so the tooth must be reduced in size to make room for the extra bulk. These ceramic restorations are typically referred to as inlays or onlays.
- Glass ionomers are made of glass and acrylic and typically lasts less than 5 years. They are a good choice for children whose teeth are still changing. Glass ionomers release fluoride, which can help protect the tooth from further decay. The disadvantages of glass ionomer fillings are they are significantly weaker than composite resin and much more likely to wear or fracture. Traditional glass ionomer does not match your tooth color as precisely as composite resin.
On average, amalgam fillings are expected to last approximately 12 years, while composite fillings are expected to last five to seven years. This of course is dependent on your unique considerations, the care with which you treat your oral hygiene and your commitment to continued dental visits.