5 Tooth Filling Materials: The good and the ugly

tooth filling materials
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Tooth filling materials are special material that is used in dentistry for repairing decayed, cracked or broken teeth. Tooth cavity can result to holes on the decayed part of your tooth. During filling, your dentist cleans out the decayed part of the tooth, creating a hole. After removing the decay, the dentist fills the empty space with fillings.

Fillings helps to restore the normal structure of your teeth, it also prevents further decay and discomfort while chewing. What most people don’t know is that there are different types of tooth filling materials that you can select from. This are some of the things that your dentist will explain to you before carrying out the procedure.

Various materials used for filling cavities comes in different strength, structure and color. The whole process of filling a dental cavity should take about an hour or more to be completed. Although, depending on the type of filling material being used, gold fillings can take days to be completed.

In fact, many materials are available for tooth fillings, but each of them have their advantages and disadvantages. As we move on. Before the end of this article you’ll get to know lots about the materials used for tooth filling.

Different Tooth Filling materials

1. Amalgam fillings 

Amalgam fillings is a popular choice when it comes to tooth cavity filling. It’s very strong and tends to last more longer than most other tooth filling materials. The amalgam fillings also known as silver fillings is made of several metallic ingredients. It’s a mixture of silver, tin, zinc, copper and mercury. Due to its numerous properties and strong nature. Amalgam fillings is ideal for filling cavities formed at the back teeth where chewing takes place.

Advantages

  • Amalgam fillings or silver fillings is very strong that it can withstand constant pressure and forces during chewing.
  • Amalgam fillings last for a very long period of time. It usually last at least 10 to 15 years.
  • It’s less expensive than other tooth filling materials. It cost between $50 – $150 per each filling.

Disadvantages

  • It’s less pleasing to the eye and it can be easily noticed when you smile. This fillings does not match the color of your existing teeth.
  • Most people using amalgam fillings do complain of discoloration or erosion of the fillings overtime.
  • If you are allergic to mercury, it’s not advisable that you should get an amalgam fillings. Because the mercury that is present in amalgam is given off in form of vapor which can be inhaled and absorbed by your lungs.
  • Unlike most other tooth filling materials, amalgam does not form close bond with your tooth.

2. Composite fillings 

This is also referred to as tooth-colored composites or composite resins. The composite fillings is a mixture of plastic and fine glass particles. Composite fillings is fairly durable and ideal for small cavities where constant chewing is not needed. It’s mostly used on the front teeth or visible parts of teeth. This is because it’s specially designed to closely match the color of your existing teeth, making them hard to notice.

Advantages

  • Composite fillings will match the color of your teeth.
  • It’s bonds closely to the tooth structure, providing further support and protection.
  • Composite fillings can be combined with other materials and used to repair chipped, broken, or worn teeth. (1)
  • Unlike amalgam fillings, less drilling and shaping of your tooth structure is needed. Much opening isn’t needed on your tooth to secure composite fillings.

Disadvantages

  • Composite fillings don’t last long when used to fill large cavity where the tooth is under the pressure of chewing. Normally it lasts for at least 5 years.
  • It’s more costly than amalgam fillings, it costs about $100 – $250 per composite filling.
  • Composite fillings are more complex to install, completion can take at least two visits to your dentist.
  • It’s suitable for smaller cavities in the teeth where lots of chewing doesn’t take place.

3. Ceramic fillings

Ceramic fillings are much more similar to tooth-colored composite fillings. Ceramic fillings is also designed to have the same color as your natural teeth. It’s made of porcelain, being more resistant to staining than any other tooth filling materials.

Advantages

  • Ceramic fillings last for very long period of time, it can last longer than 10 years.
  • It has the same color as your natural teeth, making it unnoticeable.
  • Ceramic fillings are more resistant to staining and erosion than composite and amalgam fillings.

Disadvantages

  • More drilling and shaping of the tooth is needed for installing ceramic fillings.
  • Due to the nature of ceramics, ceramic fillings are more brittle and can break easily.
  • Extra care and caution should be required in taking care of ceramic fillings. There might be need for regular examination after installation.
  • Ceramic fillings are much very expensive than composite fillings.

4. Cast Gold Fillings

This particular filings is made through the combination of gold and other metals. Although, the cost of gold fillings can be more than 10 times the price of amalgam filings. Most people desire to get gold fillings, but that’s only if you can afford the price.

Advantages

  • Cast gold fillings is very durable as it can last more than 15 years.
  • It’s very strong and can withstand chewing forces and pressure.
  • Most people find gold fillings to be more pleasing to the eye than amalgam fillings.
  • Gold fillings doesn’t tarnish or corrode easily.

Disadvantages

  • It’s very complex to install gold fillings, it takes days to complete.
  • It’s very expensive much more than amalgam fillings and other tooth filling materials. It cost about $1200 for a single filling.
  • It does not match the color of your natural teeth. For this reason, most patients prefer tooth-colored fillings.
  • When placed wrongly, you can experience frequent galvanic shock which results from interactions between the metals and your saliva.

5. Glass Ionomer fillings 

Glass lonomer fillings is usually recommended for young children and also for fillings required below the gum line. Glass Ionomer is made up of acrylicy and fluoroaluminosilicate. When used for fillings, this unique filling material protects the teeth against further decay by releasing fluoride. However, this filling material isn’t as strong as other material. It doesn’t last longer because it’s more susceptible to wear down faster.

Advantages

  • The glass  Ionomer fillings are designed to match the color of your existing teeth. But it’s not as good as tooth-colored composite fillings.
  • It’s more affordable unlike gold fillings. The price is similar to that of composite fillings.
  • It provides extra protection to the teeth and gums, by providing flouride.
  • This fillings tend to bond closely to the tooth. This properties is very essential for preventing fillings leakage.

Disadvantages

  • It’s weaker than most other tooth filling materials as it’s more likely to wear down faster.
  • It’s very complex to install, a special bright blue light might be needed.
  • It’s not suitable for fillings large cavities found on molars or premolars. Instead it’s mostly used for filling cavities at the front teeth.

Final Thoughts

Tooth fillings is great for getting rid of holes on your teeth. There are also numerous other tooth filling materials apart from the five that I listed on the article. Before getting a filling, your dentist will explain more about the available fillings material.

When choosing a material for your dental fillings, the durability really matters. Glass ionomer fillings is good, but they don’t last quite long like other filling materials. Most people go for metal fillings that can last up to 10 years or more.

Making the right decision on your tooth filling material is very important. If you’re still confused on the one to go for, your dentist can help identify the most suitable filling material for you.

However, not taking good care of your tooth fillings after getting them can be disastrous. You should stick to good oral hygiene after getting a cavity filling.

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