Dental clinics offer fillings as a way of repairing cavities in teeth that have been damaged by tooth decay. Using fillings, a dentist will restore the tooth’s shape, allowing you to bite and chew again without the pain caused by the cavity.
What are dental cavity fillings?
The first step in filling a tooth is the removal of decayed enamel from the tooth using a small high-speed drill. You may also be given local anesthetic before the procedure to numb the area to pain. The dentist will then clean the affected tooth and fill in the hole they have drilled with a filling material. This can be made from gold, ceramic, composite resin, or silver amalgam.
What are the different cavity filling options?
Choosing a type of filling involves considering several factors. The amount of tooth damage, the location of the cavity on the tooth, whether a patient is allergic to a certain material, and of course, the cost. Each filling material as its own list of pros and cons.
Gold fillings are one of the most durable choices and can last for over 20 years; they are also highly resistant to corrosion. The strength of gold alloy allows these fillings to withstand the force of chewing and biting but they will require at least two visits to the dentist to place. Gold fillings are also some of the most expensive, and many patients dislike the look of them as they do not match the surrounding teeth.
Silver alloy fillings are made from a mixture of silver, copper, tin, mercury, and zinc. Like gold, these fillings are highly durable and will last many years before needing to be replaced. They are also similarly strong and durable. However, placement of silver fillings requires more of the healthy enamel to be removed to hold the amalgam. They can also cause greyish discolouration in the surrounding tooth. Additionally, about 1% of the population is allergic to the mercury in these fillings.
3. Composite Resin
These plastic fillings may be the most aesthetically pleasing, as they can closely match the colour of the surrounding teeth. They are also highly versatile, being used not only for large fillings but also to repair small chips and cracks. As composite fillings bond to the tooth micromechanically, they provide better support to damaged teeth. However, this type of filling is prone to being damaged, does not last as long as metal (only about 5 years) and can cost twice as much as silver alloy.
This type of filling, also known as an inlay or only, is able to resist stain more than the plastic composite variety, allowing to maintain its toothy whiteness longer. Ceramic is also a resilient material, lasting about 15 years and in terms of price can cost about as much as gold.
Do I need a filling?
Only a dental professional can say for certain whether a filling might be necessary. During a dental examination, your dentist will carefully check each tooth for signs of decay and other damage. If anything seems out of the ordinary, they will use special tools to confirm the presence of a cavity. They may also opt to perform an x-ray of your mouth and jaw to better assess the situation. The type of treatment that the dentist selects will vary according to the individual cavity and personal choices of the patient.
The best way to know for sure is to speak to a professional dentist. Our dentists at Smile Well Dental have over 30 years of combined experience, working with thousands of dental patients. Contact us today to book an appointment.