Dental Filling 1

Dental Filling

Teeth that have been damaged by decay are not only uncomfortable, they are often unable to function as needed and are usually misshapen to at least some small degree. While it is obviously ideal to entirely prevent tooth decay from happening, the fact is that some amount of tooth decay does occasionally happen despite our best efforts at preventing it. Fortunately, it is possible to restore the comfort, function and shape of a damaged tooth through the use of dental fillings.

Dental Filling Basics

In order to place a dental filling into a tooth, a dentist must first remove all decayed tooth material and then clean the area. By placing a dental filling into a tooth, the dentist is preventing further decay while also closing off the exposed space of the tooth so that new bacteria cannot enter. In doing this, the dentist is able to sufficiently restore the health, comfort and function of the tooth so that the individual can experience optimal oral health once again.

The type of dental filling material that is used on a specific tooth is chosen based on the extent of repair needed, whether the patient is sensitive or allergic to certain materials, where in the mouth the filling will be used and the cost of the filling. There are four main types of dental filling materials:

  • Gold. Gold is often considered one of, if not the best dental filling material because it is very durable, usually tolerated by gum tissues and can last for more than twenty years. Gold fillings must be specifically made to order in a dental laboratory and then cemented into place by a dentist, which means that they require multiple dental visits. They are also usually the most costly choice.
  • Amalgam. Amalgam is a mixture of metals, normally including mercury, tin, copper, silver or zinc. They are resistant to wear and more cost-effective than gold fillings, which makes them an excellent choice for individuals who want quality fillings at a lower cost. That said, they are usually not desirable for the structural, functional or cosmetic restoration of front teeth as they are dark in color and tend to grow even darker over time, which means that they are more easily detected in the mouth.
  • Composite. Composites are a mixture of materials, normally including powdered glass and acrylic resin. Their main attraction is the fact that they can be matched to your natural tooth color, which allows them to be essentially undetectable once in your mouth. However, composite fillings are not as strong as gold or amalgam fillings, and can chip or wear more easily as a result. They also tend to stain easily, especially if the patient consumes coffee, tea or tobacco. This makes composite fillings more ideal for small restorations and in areas of the mouth that are only under moderate amounts of pressure.
  • Porcelain. When porcelain is used for the purpose of a dental filling they are called inlays or onlays because they normally cover most of the tooth. They are produced in a dental laboratory and then bonded to the tooth. Like composite fillings, porcelain fillings can be matched to the patient’s natural tooth color, however they are usually more comparable in price to gold fillings.

Prior to placing a filling in a tooth, the dentist will need to determine whether a filling is appropriate and what type of filling is best. It can happen that in some cases, a filling is inappropriate. This usually occurs when decay or fracture has damaged so much of the tooth that a filling will be unable to sufficiently restore structure and function. When this happens, the patient may need a dental crown or other treatment. Fortunately, those individuals who receive regular dental examinations and cleanings are more likely to catch tooth decay issues early on and restore tooth structure and function with dental fillings.


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