I need a filling — what types are there?
There are a number of different fillings, including:
• amalgam (silver coloured)
• composite fillings (tooth coloured)
• glass ionomer (tooth coloured)
• gold inlays and onlays (gold coloured)
• porcelain inlays (tooth coloured).
What are amalgam fillings?
Amalgam fillings are silver-coloured. They are made by combining mercury and a silver alloy (50% mercury, 35% silver, and 15% tin, copper and other metals). Amalgam is long-lasting and hard-wearing and has been used in fillings for at least 150 years. It is economical to use and it is not unusual for an amalgam filling to last 15 to 20 years. This kind of filling is usually used on the back ‘chewing’ teeth. Before the filling can be placed, the dentist must prepare the area by removing all the decay and shaping the cavity to hold the filling in place. If the tooth is badly broken, your dentist may need to place a small stainless steel pin to help secure the filling.
Are there any risks from amalgam fillings?
The mercury in dental amalgam is not poisonous once it is combined with the other materials in the filling. Its chemical nature changes so that it is harmless. Research into the safety of dental amalgam has been carried out for over 100 years. So far, no reputable ‘controlled’ studies have found a connection between amalgam fillings and any medical problem.
What are composite fillings?
Composite fillings are strong, but may not be as hard-wearing as amalgam fillings. Composite fillings are tooth coloured and are made from powdered glass quartz, silica or other ceramic particles added to a resin base. After the tooth is prepared, the filling is bonded onto the area and a light shone onto it to set it. The dentist will choose a shade to match your own teeth, although over time staining can happen.
What are glass ionomer fillings?
Glass ionomer fillings form a chemical link with the tooth. They may also release fluoride, which helps to prevent further tooth decay. This type of filling is fairly weak. Because of this, they are usually only used on baby teeth and inon-biting’ surfaces such as around the’necks’ of the teeth. Little preparation is needed as the filling bonds directly to the tooth.
What are gold inlays and onlays?
These can be used in most areas of the mouth. An inlay is small and placed within the biting surface of the tooth. An onlay can cover a larger area of the tooth. Gold is the most long-lasting and hard-wearing filling material and will last for many years. An advantage of gold is that it does not tarnish and has great strength. One of the differences between gold and other filling materials is that the gold filling is made in a laboratory. Your dental team will usually take an impression of the prepared cavity and send it to the laboratory for the technician to make the inlay or onlay. In the meantime, a temporary filling will be placed in the cavity. After the gold inlay or onlay has been made, your dentist will fix it in place with dental cement. This type of filling is more expensive.
What are porcelain inlays?
Your dental team can now use digital technology (called CADCAM) to design and prepare perfectly fitted porcelain inlays in just one or two visits. Porcelain inlays can also be made in a laboratory but this will need at least two visits to your dentist. Porcelain can be hard-wearing and long-lasting. It can also be coloured to match your natural tooth. Again, this type of filling can be quite expensive.
Why should I consider white fillings?
Most people have fillings of one sort or another in their mouths. Nowadays fillings can be natural looking. Many people are more conscious about the way they look, so they don’t want silver fillings that show when they laugh or smile.
Costs can vary quite a lot from dentist to dentist. They usually depend on the size and type of white filling used and the time it takes to complete the treatment. Costs may also vary from region to region, but your dental team will be able to give you an idea of the cost before you agree to treatment.
Are white fillings as good as silver amalgam fillings?
White fillings have always been considered less long-lasting than silver amalgam fillings. But there are now new materials available that are comparable to silver amalgam, and these are proving to be very successful. The life expectancy of a white filling can depend greatly on where it is in your mouth and how heavily your teeth come together when you bite. Your dental team can advise you on how long your fillings should last.
Is it worth replacing my amalgam fillings with white ones?
It is usually best to change fillings only when your dental team decide that an old filling needs replacing. If so, you can ask to have it replaced in a tooth-coloured material. Some dentists prefer not to put white fillings in back teeth, as they are not always successful. One way around this would be to use crowns or inlays, but this can mean removing more of the tooth and can be more expensive.
Amalgam fillings in the teeth shown with the use of a rubber dam.
What are tooth-coloured fillings made of?
This can vary, but they are mainly made of glass particles, synthetic resin and a setting ingredient. Your dental team should be able to give you more information about the particular material they use.
Where can I get white fillings done?
Most dental practices offer white fillings as a normal part of the treatment they give you. Are there any alternatives to fillings? ‘Adhesive dentistry’ involves bonding the filling to the tooth. The dental team have to remove less of the tooth, which is obviously better. As we have already said, there are alternatives such as crowns and inlays, although they can cost a lot more. Veneers can be used on front teeth instead of crowns or fillings.
Thank you for reading and we hope that the above information was useful to you. If you would like to book an appointment with us about any of the above then please call us on 01228 521889 or visit our contact page to speak with a member of our dental team for advice.