One of the most common dental treatments is dental fillings. Dental fillings involve the restoration of a single tooth or multiple teeth that have been damaged by dental caries. Dental fillings bring back damaged, cracked, worn out, and broken tooth/teeth to their normal shape and function.
So, if you have a worn down tooth due to tooth grinding or nail-biting, or you have a broken or cracked tooth, dental filling procedures may be the best option for you. You can read more about dental filling here.
Steps Involved In Dental Filling Procedure
When you consult a dentist to receive a dental filling procedure, the dentist would have to remove the decayed tooth parts first and clean the affected area before filling in the cavity with a filling material.
More elaborately, the dentist would first use a local anaesthetic to numb the area around the affected tooth/teeth. Next, the dentist would use either a drill or a laser to remove the decayed parts. The level of training of the dentist, the comfort level of the patient as well as the extent of the dental decay and location of the dental office would affect the choice of instrument used for the removal of the decayed tooth area.
The next step involves probing the affected area to determine whether all the decayed parts have been removed. Once all the decayed parts are removed, the dentist will proceed by cleaning the cavity of debris and bacteria. A liner may be required if the dental caries is near the root.
The dentist would then add the tooth-coloured filling material in layers. After which a special light is applied to cure or harden each layer. Once the multi-layering filling process is completed, the dentist would trim the filling material to the desired shape, getting rid of any excess material. Generally, after the filling material is set in, the dentist will finish and polish the final dental restoration.
What Types of Filling Materials Are Available?
It’s important for you to know the different types of dental filling materials. This will help you to discuss with your dentist the best dental filling material you should use.
There are currently various types of dental filling materials in the market. These include composite fillings, porcelain, gold, and silver amalgam, etc. There are also dental filling materials that contain glass particles called glass ionomer. This glass ionomer is used in a very similar way as the composite resin fillings.
The type of dental filling materials that is best for you can be determined by your location, your dentist’s recommendation, the extent of your dental caries, the cost of dental filling materials, and your insurance plan.
There are basically 5 different types of dental filling materials that are commonly used in filling dental cavities. These are:
Silver Amalgam Dental Fillings
The silver amalgam is a well-known dental filling because of its durability, strength, and affordability. Note that the silver amalgam filling isn’t entirely silver. It’s actually a mixture of minerals that contains 50% silver, copper, zinc, and tin, and 50% mercury. More so, silver amalgam dental fillings are long-lasting, a typical silver amalgam can last for at least 15 years. This type of filling is also very easy for dentists to fit into a dental cavity as there are no concerns that the filling would be contaminated by saliva or blood.
However, the silver amalgam filling has its own disadvantages. Due to its colour, silver amalgam filling is not aesthetically pleasing. Hence, it isn’t a good choice to fill a tooth in a conspicuous position. More so, this type of fillings can either contract or expand over time, thereby causing the tooth to crack. The contraction can also create unnecessary spaces between the tooth and the filling, which may trap in bacteria and food bits, further allowing new cavities to be formed.
Finally, there are on-going controversies concerning the mercury contained in the silver amalgam fillings. However, the US Food and Drug Administration and American Dental Academy stated that using silver amalgam fillings is safe.
This type of dental filling is made of plastic and resin materials. It is placed into the dental cavity while it’s yet soft, and a bright blue curing light is applied to harden it. Composite fillings are a very popular choice among dentists because of their tooth-like colour. The colour of the composite fillings matches the colour of the natural teeth, so the composite fillings are not noticeable as the silver amalgam fillings. Also, these fillings require less tooth removal than the silver amalgam fillings, and they bond firmly with the tooth structure to provide a strong and lasting restoration.
However, the composite fillings are not as long lasting as some other types of dental fillings. As a result, they require replacement at most every 5 years. Also, they are more expensive than the silver amalgam filling.
Most composite fillings are BPA-free fillings. A report showed that patients with composite fillings containing BPA did exhibit more behavioural problems, while those patients with BPA-free filling did not exhibit any change in their behaviour pattern. Hence, it is advisable to ask your dentist for a BPA-free composite filling – all silver amalgam fillings contain mercury, but not all composite fillings contain BPA.
Ceramic fillings are made of porcelain. They are aesthetically attractive and very durable. These types of dental fillings are the most expensive of all fillings after gold fillings. The ceramic fillings are tooth-coloured and are more resistant to abrasion and staining than the composite fillings. Ceramic fillings are usually categorized as inlays or onlays.
A major drawback with ceramic filling is that it’s more brittle than the composite filling and can break easily. So, to prevent it from breaking it needs to be larger. This also means that the cavity in the tooth must be larger so as to allow more room for the ceramic fillings.
Glass Ionomer Fillings
The glass ionomer (glass-and-acrylic) fillings are a very good option for children whose teeth are still growing or changing. The glass ionomer fillings don’t last long – less than 5 years. However, they release fluoride, which helps in preventing further tooth decay. More so, they’re not as strong as the composite fillings and are more likely to wear down or crack. Also, they do not match the natural tooth colour as much as the composite fillings do.
Gold Dental Fillings
The gold dental fillings are the most expensive of all type of dental fillings. As a result, they are not at all very common. In fact, you would hardly see a dentist who prescribes the gold dental fillings as an option. More so, it takes several visits to the dental office to properly fit gold fillings. And it is very conspicuous as it does match the colour of the natural tooth.
However, the gold filling is the best type of filling. It doesn’t break, wear down, or corrode. It is strong and durable, capable of lasting for more than 15 years.
To learn more about the various available types of dental filling, visit our dental filling page here or schedule an appointment with any of our professional dental practitioner.