Dental Fillings

What Is A Dental Filling?

Fillings are used by most dentists as a treatment for chips, cavities and small cracks. When applying fillings, the dentist will remove the affected area of the tooth and then bond a tooth-colored material to the tooth. Once polished, the tooth will look, and function, just like a health tooth. Fillings are capable of lasting you for the rest of your life, but can be replaced if necessary.

There are five main types of fillings used by dentist:

Silver Amalgam Fillings

Silver amalgam fillings have been used by dentists all over the world for over a century and a half. Dental amalgam is a material made from a combination of different metals like mercury, tin, copper and silver with the mercury making up about half of the mixture. When in a liquid state, mercury reacts with the other powdered metals to form a binding agent that is able to be molded to fit in the spaces in the cavities and form fitted to be comfortable in the mouth. The metal in the dental amalgam gives it that distinct silver color which is why it came to be known as “silver fillings.” The process of installing dental amalgam involves drilling out the space in the tooth where the decay is present in order to leave only health tooth enamel. The dentist will then place the amalgam like a putty into the cavity and shape it until it fits properly without affecting the patient’s bite. As soon as the amalgam hardens, it immediately acts as part of the tooth. Although a previously popular filling material, there are some risks involved with the use of silver amalgam fillings. These risks include the release of vapors from the mercury which can be absorbed by the lungs leading to health problems which is why the silver amalgam fillings are no longer used.

Composite Fillings

Composite fillings are popular with most dental patients today and are considered to be one of the main types of dental filling materials. The dental filling material consists mainly of different resins that are applied in a semi-solid state to the affected cavity area. The material’s chemical composition is changed by the use of a bright blue “curing” light causing the material to harden. Composite fillings are known to be one of the best types of tooth fillings available that can be matched to the shade of the affected tooth.

Glass Ionomer Fillings

Preferred for use on children who are still experiencing the loss of baby teeth, glass ionomer fillings have one of the shortest life-spans among fillings which is less than five years. One of its unique features is that the filling produces fluoride around the cavity preventing the tooth from experiencing any further decay. Although a tremendous benefit, glass ionomer fillings are considered weaker in comparison to composite resin fillings. They are highly prone to wear and tear and they cannot be accurately matched to the color of the tooth as well as a composite resin filling.

Ceramic Fillings

Ceramic fillings are generally the most expensive in contrast to other types of fillings. This high price is due to the fact that they are both aesthetically pleasing as well as long-lasting. Ceramic fillings make a great choice amongst the other fillings because of the tooth color design process and their high resistance to staining and abrasion. Although these benefits make it rank higher than composite resin fillings, ceramic fillings are still more brittle. The ceramic material is bulky and requires the cavity area to be enlarged in order to make room for its bulkiness. This is the reason why the installation procedure, known as onlays or inlays,  is different from the process used for other filling types.

Gold Fillings

Although an expensive option, gold filings are beneficial due to the fact that gold does not corrode and the fillings can last up to fifteen years or more. Because of the high cost, most dentists will not bring gold fillings to the table due as an option, but you can look at this as a possibility for your fillings. Just keep in mind that using gold fillings takes a series of visits to get them properly fitted into the cavity space.

Why Do Fillings Fall Out?

When decay seeps underneath an old filling it can cause the filling to be debonded from the tooth and fall out. Usually, this takes a few years to occur, but with regular dental visits we can detect the decay on an x-ray and replace the filling before this happens. Fillings can also fall out when the patient chews ice, clenches their jaw when stressed or grinds their teeth excessively. However, if you have a brand new filling fall out then it is probably due to an issue with the bonding process.

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