The news of a cavity or broken tooth is never welcome, but thanks to modern dental restoration, there’s a good chance that once your dentist fills it you may forget it was ever there. There are several different options for fillings. Each has its own pros and cons. Here are some of the types of fillings and how they work in different situations, so you can decide on the one that is right for you.
Silver Amalgam Fillings
When thinking about dental fillings, silver amalgam fillings are often the first type that comes to mind. Silver amalgam fillings are made of a mix of mercury combined with silver, zinc, tin and copper. This is likely the type of filling that was used if you got a filling years ago as a child.
The advantages to silver amalgam fillings are that they are strong and hold up well under the normal wear and tear of chewing. They typically last at least 10 to 15 years and tend to outlast composite or tooth-colored fillings. They are also more affordable than other options.
Disadvantages include aesthetics, as the silver is noticeable in contrast to your natural tooth color, but this usually goes unnoticed unless the fillings are on your front teeth. A very small percentage of people have been shown to have an allergic reaction to the mercury content in silver amalgam fillings. Amalgam fillings can also expand and contract slightly with hot and cold temperatures and over time this may lead to leaks or cracks, requiring further removal of decay and replacement.
Cast gold fillings are also extremely durable and very resilient. Like silver fillings, they also typically last at least 10 to 15 years. Aesthetic advantage over other fillings can go either way, as some people find the look of gold to be preferable while others do not want fillings to be noticeable at all. Considering what aesthetic fits your needs may help you determine which is right for you.
One downside of gold fillings is the increased cost over most other types of fillings. Gold fillings can be 10 times the cost of silver fillings. They also require more time to place, typically two office visits as compared to the usual one visit for silver or composite fillings. Another concern is galvanic shock which can occur if a gold filling is placed next to a silver amalgam filling. While rare, the metals can interact with each other and your saliva to produce an electric current that can cause a painful shock.
There are a few different kinds of tooth-colored fillings including composite resin and porcelain. These kinds of filling have the advantage of being matched to the color of your teeth so they can go completely unnoticed even when applied to your front teeth. Porcelain fillings can cost as much as gold, but composite resin fillings can be closer to the cost of amalgam fillings. Composite fillings also have the advantage of bonding better and more easily to your teeth so that they are less likely to leak and require less of the tooth to be removed in order to apply the filling.
The main downside of composite fillings is that they are less durable and may not last as long as other options as they are known to last at least 5 years compared to the typical 10 to 15 year lifespan of silver amalgam and other filling options.
The Importance of Fillings
Why do you need a filling? Is it ok to just leave the tooth as it is? Fillings are important because when your tooth becomes damaged as a result of decay, being chipped or broken then the inner layers can be exposed to bacteria. When bacteria reaches beneath the surface or enamel of the tooth, it can lead to infection that can spread to other parts of the mouth or body.
Having your dentist fill the affected tooth can protect not only the appearance of your smile but also your oral health. If you think you may have a cavity, call your dentist today for an exam and to discuss what type of filling is best suited for your needs.
Call our Mesa, AZ, dental office to make an appointment with a dentist who may be able to help you find out more about this topic, and improve your oral health.