Dental fillings are restorations used to fill in the area where cavities have damaged teeth. Your dentist will remove the decayed tissue from the tooth and fill in the missing area with a restoration.
Dentists have used fillings for more than a century to restore and protect teeth, although there’s evidence that shows humans have used various materials to fill in areas of damaged teeth much earlier .
Today, dentists use several different types of filling materials—what are they?
You know silver amalgam fillings as the shiny metal fillings in people’s mouths. These fillings are composed of a variety of different materials, including mercury, silver, tin, and copper .
Despite their mercury content (which makes up approximately 50 percent of the material), the American Dental Association maintains that amalgam fillings are safe, as mercury isn’t considered toxic once it’s combined with the other filling materials .
However, many people dislike the look of metal in their mouths and want a dental restoration that matches their natural teeth.
Composite resin fillings have become a popular alternative to silver amalgam fillings. They’re durable and ideal for people who want a restoration that’s not obvious in their mouths, although they tend to be a bit more expensive than amalgam fillings .
Made of a mix of ceramics and plastics, composite resin fillings can last an average of five years as opposed to the decade or more seen with amalgam fillings. However, for people who want a more discreet look for their restorations, composite resin could be the answer!
Gold used to be much more common in dentistry than it is today. This metal was used for dental restorations including crowns, dentures, and bridges, but is being replaced by more modern alternatives .
While they’re more expensive, gold used as a filling is very durable and can last more than two decades. Its cost combined with its more obvious appearance in the mouth make it a less common choice for patients today.
Glass ionomer fillings have a higher biocompatibility, meaning there’s a low risk of reaction and the material is well tolerated by the body . However, these fillings aren’t quite as durable as other types of fillings.
Their composition can vary but the main ingredients are usually calcium and silica including fluorite to protect teeth from further decay. Glass ionomer fillings are commonly used to fill cavities on the front teeth or around the tooth roots.
Porcelain is a type of ceramic and is the main material in this filling. Designed to match the color of your teeth and lasting upwards of 20 years, porcelain fillings contain no metals or the potential for an allergic reaction. Just like porcelain dental veneers, these fillings are resistant to staining over time.
When you need a cavity filled, you have your choice of materials today. Gone are the days when our ancestors had to rely on tar, beeswax, or other materials to repair their damaged teeth. Your professional dentist can restore your teeth to prevent further harm and protect your tooth with these filling materials!