Cavities are no fun at all. They get bigger over time, they can expose more sensitive portions of your teeth to damage, and they can be a hotbed for germs and bacteria. The best way of dealing with cavities is preventive care; that is, you should brush and floss regularly to get rid of the sticky sugars that are prone to causing cavities. There are times, however, when cavities are too big to be left alone, the times where preventive maintenance of the teeth has been insufficient. In those times, you need dental fillings.
Dental fillings do exactly what it sounds like they do; they fill a cavity so it’s no longer exposed to the elements, reducing the chances that it will grow bigger and expose your tooth to more problems. There are two general categories of fillings, direct and indirect. Direct fillings, as you might imagine, go directly into the cavity; indirect fillings, like caps and crowns, are used when there’s not enough tooth structure remaining for a direct filling to be viable. Direct fillings usually take one appointment, as the filling is used directly in the cavity. Indirect fillings, conversely, have to be molded to fit over your tooth, and usually take two appointments because of the added complexity.
There are two other broad categories of filling; metal fillings and tooth colored fillings. Metal fillings are the most commonly used, because they’re relatively inexpensive and very effective. The most common of these is the dental amalgam filling, also known as a silver filling. It’s a direct filling made of a mixture of metals, including silver and tin. The aesthetic of silver fillings isn’t for everyone, as it does give the filled area a metallic sheen; as a result, they’re most commonly used on back teeth. Gold fillings are also available; these are indirect fillings, and thus take longer to put on your teeth. Both gold and silver fillings last a long time, with gold lasting a little longer; gold is, however, more expensive and labour intensive, so silver is often more attractive for clients.
Tooth-colored fillings look much more natural than metal fillings, being made up of polymers or ceramics. There are three types of tooth-colored filling you want to know about: composite, glass ionomer and porcelain. Composite fillings are direct fillings made of plastic; they look natural, but cost more than amalgam fillings, and can decay fairly easily. Glass ionomer fillings, a direct filling, are made of a mixture of glass and a polymer called polyacrylic acid. They contain fluoride, which helps reduce tooth decay; they are, however, quite weak. Porcelain fillings are indirect, but they are incredibly long-lasting. They are, however, the most expensive dental fillings. All tooth-colored fillings are prone to breaking under force, so they aren’t suitable for back teeth; that works out pretty well, because aesthetic concerns are mostly front-tooth oriented.
We’re proud to have experienced dentists who are happy to talk with patients about the different types of tooth filling. Each patient will have different preferences, factoring in aesthetics, durability and cost; we’ll take the time to go over these concerns with you, so we can find the right filling for your teeth.