A common misconception about dental fillings is that they are only used to fix cavities. Fillings have many uses, including filling a tooth after decay has been removed and repairing cracked or broken teeth. Dentists also use fillings to repair worn-down teeth. The cost of dental fillings differs depending on the material used.
What are the different types of dental fillings?
While it’s best to let your dentist choose which type of filling is best for your needs, knowing what materials your filling is made of can be helpful.
Here are five different types of dental fillings you should know about:
- Silver Amalgam Fillings
- Composite fillings
- Glass ionomer fillings
- Ceramic fillings
- Gold fillings
Silver Amalgam Dental Fillings
Over the years, a commonly used material for fillings was silver amalgam. Silver amalgam contains a range of metals, including mercury, tin, copper and silver. Not all composite fillings contain these ingredients; sometimes, they have just one or two materials.
Silver amalgam fillings have been around for decades. They are highly durable and can last up to a decade. The mercury in silver amalgam fillings is not considered dangerous. In New Zealand, the Ministry of Health monitors literature on its safety and makes recommendation on its use.
Silver amalgam fillings can be an option, but they have some disadvantages. Firstly, silver stands out against the white enamel of your teeth, and it is obvious you have a filling. Additionally, these fillings can stain and give your teeth a grey hue over time.
Some dentists don’t like to use silver amalgam as healthy parts of your tooth often need to be removed to hold an amalgam filling. This destruction to more of the tooth structure can be avoided by choosing fillings made from other materials. This process can weaken teeth.
Finally, amalgam can expand and contract with hot and cold temperatures. This can cause cracks and fractures to form in the tooth. For these reasons, Gentle Dental does not use amalgam fillings in our clinics.
Composite Dental Fillings
Composite fillings are made of silica, plastic, glass quartz, and other ceramic particles added to a resin base. After the decay is removed from a cavity, the filling is bonded into the hollow cavity. Your dentist will then composite the composite using ultraviolet light.
Composite is a popular choice of filling mainly because the resin matches the shade of your teeth. When preparing the filling, less of the tooth structure needs to be removed than when using amalgam.
Composite fillings are also great for repairing chipped, broken or worn teeth. The material creates a strong bond which improves the strength of the tooth.
There are some disadvantages to composite fillings. They wear out faster than amalgam. Composite fillings have a lifespan of at least five years. They also take a bit longer to set than amalgam fillings, and the cost of these fillings is slightly higher than amalgam.
Glass Ionomer Dental Fillings
Glass ionomer dental fillings are mainly used on children and for fillings below the gum line. Glass ionomer fillings are primarily used for their flexibility. They are easier to apply than composite fillings and create a tight seal between the tooth and the rest of the mouth.
These types of fillings contain silicate glass powder, which contains fluoride. The slow release of fluoride from glass ionomer fillings can help to prevent future cavities and protect teeth.
Glass ionomers are significantly weaker than composite resin fillings because they tend to wear and tear quickly. They also have a life span of fewer than five years and don’t match the tooth colour as precisely as composite.
Ceramic fillings are made most often out of porcelain. Ceramic fillings generally need to be made in a dental lab (or in one visit at Gentle Dental) and aren’t a good option for quickly treating a cavity. However, ceramic fillings last a long time and have a lifespan of around 15 years. They are more expensive than many other types of fillings.
Gold fillings aren’t very common, but they have many advantages. They are highly durable and can last up to 20 years. They’re also super strong and aren’t likely to break or crack. Some people like how gold fillings look and are happy to pay the high price to be fitted with a gold filling.
The downsides of gold fillings are the price. They also take longer to fit and require at least two appointments before your tooth is fully restored.
How to Take Care of Your Dental Fillings
Take care of your dental fillings by brushing twice daily, flossing and avoiding hard or sticky foods. These can cause fillings to come loose. Very hot and very cold temperatures can also cause amalgam fillings to expand or contract, which can lead to cracks.
If you have fillings, you must see your dentist regularly, especially if your fillings are old. Your dentist can check that your fillings and the surrounding tooth structure are healthy and if they need to be replaced.
Book a check-up for your fillings today at Gentle Dental.