One of the most common tooth replacement options is dental filling. It involves the restoration of a tooth or more teeth that have been damaged, worn down, cracked, or decayed to their normal shape and function.
There are currently several types of dental filling materials out there, which include composite fillings, porcelain, gold, glass ionomer, and silver amalgam, etc.
Silver Amalgam Fillings:
This is an older dental filling material. Silver amalgam is actually a mixture of minerals that contains 50% silver, copper, zinc, and tin, and 50% mercury. There is an on-going controversy around the use of silver amalgam fillings because of the mercury it contains. Exposure to mercury has been linked to a number of health problems. However, the USFDA and ADA stated that using silver amalgam fillings is safe. As a result, dental professional all around the world still use silver amalgam filling, which can last for more than 10 years. Silver amalgam filling has a silver colour, so it mostly used for filling the back teeth.
These are always referred to as tooth-coloured fillings. It is the most commonly used dental filling due to its colour and it also creates an adhesive bond with hard tooth structures.
However, the composite fillings are not as long lasting as some other types of dental fillings. As a result, they require replacement at most every 5 years. Also, they are more expensive than the silver amalgam filling.
This is the less commonly used dental filling material. Glass ionomer releases fluoride over time and has the benefit of being tooth-coloured. This means that the glass ionomer can help to prevent future dental cavities. The main disadvantages of the glass ionomer filling are that it is less cosmetic than the composite fillings and it is slightly more difficult for the filling to be polished and shaped by dentists.
General, these are the most recommended three types of dental fillings that can be used to fill dental cavities. The other two options – porcelain (ceramic) fillings and gold fillings – are very expensive and are seldom prescribed by the dentists.
The type of dental filling materials that is best for you can be determined by your location, your dentist’s recommendation, the extent of your dental caries, the cost of dental filling materials, and your insurance plan.
However, the composite fillings, also called the tooth-coloured fillings, are very durable and offer high resistance to fracture. Irrespective of the size of the fillings, composite fillings can withstand moderate pressure from chewing. Composite fillings can be used to fill either the front teeth or the back teeth. Composite fillings are a very good choice for patients who want their dental filling to look more natural.
Composite fillings are more expensive than silver amalgam fillings and are sometimes considered as cosmetic dentistry by some insurance company. As a result, they are not always covered by insurance plans.
Generally, no dental filling can last forever, however, studies have shown that composite fillings are less durable than silver amalgam fillings and need to be replaced more frequently.
Why Composite Fillings Are Better Than Other Options
The Most Cosmetic Material
Composite fillings are the most cosmetic material of all dental filling materials. This is the main reason why most patients prefer to receive the composite fillings material.
Basically, composite fillings are available in any possible tooth colour. This means that the composite fillings can perfectly blend with your natural tooth making it almost invisible for anyone who is not a dental practitioner to notice it.
The Most Conservative Material
The composite fillings can be used to fill in dental cavities of any size. This makes the material a very good option for dentists. The composite fillings materials can be used for a tiny dental cavity and the composite fillings stay tiny unlike the silver amalgam fillings, which require a minimum width, depth, and height, irrespective of how small the dental cavity is.
As a result, this option allows dentists to remove only the decayed or damaged part of the tooth, leaving as much healthy tooth structure as possible.
Composite Fillings Are Highly Polishable
The composite fillings have two polishability features:
- The composite fillings material can be polished to become glossy and smooth just like the enamel. Tooth enamel reflects light like glass. So, by polishing the composite filling materials, it mimics the light reflection ability of the enamel.
- Polishing the surface of the composite fillings prevents the build-up of plaque. A rough textured surface has a tendency of attracting the build-up of plaque. Therefore, in order to prevent further dental cavities, it is very important to prevent the build-up of plaque by polishing the surface of the composite fillings. When a surface of the composite fillings is glossy and smooth, it will accumulate less plaque, which will subsequently lead to a lower dental cavity risk.
Composite Fillings Are Very Versatile
There are several types of composite fillings material available in the market. This makes it possible for dentists to use composite fillings for a lot of different dental works. For instance, there are tooth-coloured fillings with a higher strength to withstand chewing forces for filling cavities in the back teeth. There are also composite fillings that are translucent, shinier, and lighter to perfectly restore the front teeth.
Composite Fillings Are Repairable
Another great advantage of composite fillings is that they can be easily repaired. Therefore, if a portion of your composite filling chips or breaks, your dentist wouldn’t have to remove the entire fillings, instead your dentist would only carry out brief repair work on the fillings, which requires less drilling and less anaesthesia. Hence, cosmetic fillings are useful for more conservative dentistry.
Finally, despite the fact that composite fillings are better, the best dental filling is not having a dental cavity at all (no dental filling). Hence, it is advisable that you decrease your risk of dental cavities as well as other likely dental issues by:
- Observing proper oral hygiene practices, such as brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste and flossing at least twice daily
- Eating a balanced diet
- Making a regular visit to the dental office for dental cleaning and check-up.
If you need more information on composite fillings, visit our composite fillings page. And if you’re in need of a dental filling or other dental restoration procedures, please contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our conservative dentists.