In the past, people had just one option when it came to types of dental fillings: the metal-colored silver fillings also known as amalgam fillings. These types of fillings did the trick, but their dark gray color meant they were not particularly esthetic. People today have a choice of materials when it comes to halting tooth decay. Let’s take a look at the different types of dental fillings.
- Silver Amalgam Fillings
For years, the silver amalgam filling was the most popular way to fill in a cavity. Silver amalgam is made out of more than just silver. These fillings actually comprise a mixture of minerals that include silver, tin, zinc, copper and mercury.
When to Use Silver Amalgam Fillings
Although tooth-colored fillings are more popular today, your dentist might still recommend amalgam or silver fillings to fix cavities in teeth. Amalgam fillings are strong and durable, and they are often more economical than tooth-colored fillings. Some dentists might recommend an amalgam filling for a heard-reach area or an area of the mouth that is difficult to keep dry during the restoration process.
Pros and Cons of Silver Amalgam Fillings
The primary benefit of an amalgam filling is that they are an economical way to fill a tooth that has a spot of decay. They are also long-lasting with the typical silver filling lasting a dozen years or more.
There are disadvantages to silver amalgam fillings., They are not esthetically pleasing because of their dark gray color — particularly for a highly visible tooth. They also have a tendency to expand and contract over time which can lead to cracks in the tooth. Cracks mean that food and bacteria can get below the surface of the filling, and this can cause new cavities to form.
Some people are also concerned about the mercury that is usually present in amalgam fillings. The American Dental Association’s stance continues to be that these types of fillings are safe.
- Composite Fillings
Composite fillings have become more and more popular in recent years because they can be made to blend in with the natural tooth color. These fillings are made of a resin and plastic material that your dentist places into the cavity while it is soft, hardening it with a blue “curing” light.
When to Use Composite Fillings
Most people today prefer to get composite fillings because they are virtually invisible, blending in with the natural tooth color. This makes them particularly useful for filling cavities that show when people smile. Although composite fillings are not as strong or long-lasting as amalgam fillings, they are still highly durable.
Pros and Cons of Composite Fillings
In addition to their cosmetic appeal, there are other benefits to composite fillings. They are quicker to place than amalgam fillings, and they do not cause sensitivity the way amalgam fillings can. If your filling gets damaged, composite fillings are easy for your dentist to repair.
One drawback to composite fillings is that they do not last as long as some other types of fillings and may need to be replaced every five to 10 years. They also tend to be more expensive than silver amalgam fillings.
- Ceramic Fillings
Ceramic fillings have been used more frequently in recent years. The ceramic-polymer substance looks very much like your natural tooth. So, cavities filled with this material are virtually invisible.
When to Use Ceramic Fillings
If staining is a concern, such as for fillings at the front of the mouth, ceramic fillings can be a good option. They are more resistant to staining and abrasion than composite resin.
Pros and Cons of Ceramic Fillings
The disadvantage of using ceramic instead of a composite material is that ceramic has a tendency to be more brittle and needs to be larger to prevent it from breaking. This means that more of the tooth surface must be removed to accommodate it. This type of ceramic restoration is usually referred to as inlays or onlays.
There are benefits to using ceramic fillings, as well. Ceramic has the lowest toxicity of chemicals than other types of restorations. It also has the durability that composite tooth-colored fillings lack. Ceramic restorations can last as long as two decades.
- Glass Ionomer Fillings
Glass ionomer fillings are made of acrylic and glass. Often, no tooth preparation is needed before putting in a glass ionomer filling, making them particularly suitable for kids.
When to Use Glass Ionomer Fillings
Dentists tend to use this material for fillings that occur below the gum line. They are also used for fillings in young children.
Pros and Cons of Glass Ionomer Fillings
Traditional glass ionomer does not match tooth color as precisely as composite resin. So, they lack a cosmetic appeal. They are also weaker than composite resin, making them more likely to crack or wear out. The main advantage of this type of filling is that it releases fluoride. So, it can help protect the treated tooth from further decay.
- Gold Fillings
It will come as no surprise that gold fillings are the most expensive type of filling you can get, and they are not very common. You might even have trouble finding a dentist who will offer gold as an option for fillings.
When to Use Gold Fillings
In the rare instance when a gold filling is recommended, it is often because the tooth structure has been severely compromised. Gold is a highly durable metal and can reinforce the tooth structure to prevent it from chipping or fracturing.
Pros and Cons of Gold Fillings
The main drawback of using gold for fillings is that it is so expensive. It will also take more than one trip to the dentist for this type of restoration. However, gold is durable and noncorrosive. So, a gold filling is expected to last for at least 20 years or more.
Need a Filling?
For more information on the best filling option for you, contact West Coast Dental. We are pleased to accept most dental insurance plans. We have dentists in Orange, Pomona, and many more throughout Los Angeles. Give us a call at 888-329-8111 to make an appointment or book online.
American Dental Association (ADA) – Amalgam Fillings
Healthline – Composite Dental Fillings
Kids in the House – Options for Filling Cavities
Oral Health Foundation – Different Filling Materials
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – Dental Amalgam Fillings
Very Well Health – Different Types of Dental Fillings