Since the early 19th century, dental fillings have been utilized to seal the openings in a tooth after a dentist has removed the part of the tooth with the decay contained in it. Initially, dental fillings were made from materials such as metal and wooden caps. While the materials used have changed through advancements in science, the filling procedure today has remained largely the same since its introduction.
A few years ago, silver amalgam was the prevailing filling choice for dentists. However, as technology continues to advance, filling materials have developed to better match tooth color and tooth composition. When determining whether or not a patient has tooth decay during an office visit, the dentist will observe the state of their teeth. Discolored spots often indicate decay; however, not all discoloration denotes a cavity.
In addition to looking for discoloration, a dentist is able to spot decay via a cavity-detecting dye, x-rays, or laser fluorescence cavity detection aids. Beyond fillings for cavities, a patient may need dental fillings in cases where they have a broken or cracked tooth as well as when teeth become worn. Habits such as tooth grinding, nail-biting, and using teeth to open things can all result in the need for a filling.
Types of Fillings
There are multiple types of filling materials available today. The decision of which type of filling to place is based on the patient’s dental condition, the location of the decay, the severity of the decay, insurance coverage, and cost of the filling.
The following are the five types of dental fillings used by dentists today:
- Composite: with the ability to match composite material to the color of the tooth, this is the most popular option for dental fillings.
- Silver Amalgam: Silver amalgam is strong and durable. However, the majority of patients do not like the look of these fillings, making them a less popular choice. Some people are concerned with the mercury levels that are present in these fillings although no research has proved them harmful. James Family Dentistry does not use amalgam fillings.
- Gold: while not the most commonly used type of filling, gold is a durable, non-corrosive, and long-lasting option. However, gold fillings are much more costly when compared to silver amalgam, for instance, and will require more than one visit to the dentist to complete.
- Ceramic: made of porcelain, ceramic fillings are an aesthetically favorable option. While ceramic fillings are durable, they also have the capacity to wear down opposing teeth in situations where the porcelain becomes coarse.
- Glass Ionomers: a common choice for children whose teeth are still developing, glass ionomers are made of acrylic and glass. Glass ionomers wear down faster than other fillings but have the ability to prevent further tooth decay through the release of fluoride.
There are certainly advantages and disadvantages associated with each and every dental filling option. As such, it is important that the patient has an open and honest discussion with their dentist. The dental professional will be able to assess the severity of the decay and then determine the best plan of action.
Caring for your Fillings
In order to make the dental fillings last as long as possible, it is important that the patient cares for their fillings. First and foremost, it is absolutely essential for any patient with fillings to regularly visit their dentist. In doing so, they will have the security of knowing that their teeth are properly cleaned and monitored. In addition, patients are advised to brush at least twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste and floss at least once per day.
For more information regarding dental fillings and your personal options, contact a Royal Palm Beach dental expert today.