Dental Fillings

What is a dental filling?

Dental fillings are a safe material that are used to ‘fill’ areas of a tooth where decay had been recently removed. Dental fillings are also used to repair cracked and broken teeth and even teeth that may have been worn down from misuse.

What type of materials are used in a dental filling?

Patients at Valley of the Sun Dentistry can get their teeth filled with cast gold, silver (amalgam), composite resin, ceramic, and glass ionomer. Circumstances such as the location and extent of the decay, cost of the filling material, insurance coverage, and personal preferences may affect which type of filling is best for you.

Every dental filling material has advantages and disadvantages. Dr. Fink will discuss these advantages and disadvantages with you along with your circumstances to help determine which dental filling material would be best for your oral health.

(Cast) Gold

Advantages:

  1. Durability — lasts at least 10 to 15 years and usually longer; doesn’t corrode
  2. Strength — can withstand chewing forces
  3. Aesthetics — some patients find gold more pleasing to the eye than silver amalgam fillings.

Disadvantages:

  1. Expense — gold cast fillings cost more than other materials; up to 10 times higher than the cost of silver amalgam filings.
  2. Additional office visits — requires at least two office visits to place
  3. Galvanic shock — a gold filling placed immediately next to a silver amalgam filling may cause a sharp pain (galvanic shock) to occur. The interaction between the metals and saliva causes an electric current to occur. It’s a rare occurrence, however.
  4. Aesthetics — most patients dislike metal “colored” fillings and prefer fillings that match the rest of the tooth.

Silver (Amalgam)

Advantages:

  1. Durability — silver fillings last at least 10 to 15 years and usually outlasts composite (tooth-colored) fillings.
  2. Strength — can withstand chewing forces
  3. Expense — may be less expensive than composite fillings

Disadvantages:

  1. Poor aesthetics — silver fillings don’t match the color of natural teeth.
  2. Destruction of more tooth structure — healthy parts of the tooth must often be removed to make a space large enough to hold the amalgam filling.
  3. Discoloration — amalgam fillings can create a grayish hue to the surrounding tooth structure.
  4. Cracks and fractures — although all teeth expand and contract in the presence of hot and cold liquids, which ultimately can cause the tooth to crack or fracture, amalgam material — in comparison with other filling materials — may experience a wider degree of expansion and contraction and lead to a higher incidence of cracks and fractures.
  5. Allergic reactions — a small percentage of people, approximately 1%, are allergic to the mercury present in amalgam restorations.

Composite Resin

Advantages:

  1. Aesthetics — the shade/color of the composite fillings can be closely matched to the color of existing teeth. Composites are particularly well suited for use in front teeth or visible parts of teeth.
  2. Bonding to tooth structure — composite fillings micro-mechanically bond to tooth structure, providing further support.
  3. Versatility — in addition to use as a filling material for decay, composite fillings can also be used to repair chipped, broken, or worn teeth.
  4. Tooth-sparing preparation — sometimes less tooth structure needs to be removed compared with amalgam fillings when removing decay and preparing for the filling.

Disadvantages:

  1. Lack of durability — composite fillings wear out sooner than amalgam fillings (lasting a minimum of five years opposed to 10 to 15 for amalgams); in addition, they may not last as long as amalgam fillings under the pressure of chewing and particularly if used for large cavities.
  2. Increased chair time — because of the process to apply the composite material, these fillings can take up to 20 minutes longer than amalgam fillings to place.
  3. Additional visits — if composites are used for inlays or onlays, more than one office visit may be required.
  4. Chipping — depending on location, composite materials can chip off the tooth.
  5. Expense — composite fillings can cost up to twice the cost of amalgam fillings.

Ceramic

Advantages:

  1. Staining — ceramic fillings are more resistant to staining than composite resin fillings.
  2. Aesthetics — the shade/color of the ceramic fillings can be closely matched to the color and feel of existing teeth.
  3. Durability — ceramic fillings can last up to 20 years with proper care

Disadvantages:

  1. Expense — ceramic fillings cost more than other materials; often more than gold fillings.
  2. Additional visits — ceramic fillings normally require 2 dental visits to complete.
  3. Additional tooth shaping — if ceramic is used for inlays or onlays, a tooth will need to be reduced in size to make room for and allow the ceramic to bond completely to the remaining tooth.

Do older fillings need to be replaced?

Filllings should not be redone unless they are either bothersome, have new decay, show signs that the teeth are cracking, or some other problem is developing that will benefit from a new filling or a crown.

But, one thing that bothers people about their old dental fillings is the color. In the past, most fillings were done in silver. It is still used, but not as much as a few years ago. Silver fillings look like a black spot on the surface of a tooth. And, it usually makes the entire tooth look a little gray because the silver shows through the sides of the translucent enamel. If the black look of a silver amalgam dental filling is bothersome to a patient, it can be replaced with a white restoration and appear more like a natural tooth.The pictures below are samples of what we have done at Valley of the Sun Dentistry.dental fillings
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For more information on dental fillings and how we can help you improve your smile, contact our friendly team at Valley of the Sun Dentistry today at 602-942-4260.

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