You’ve got a cavity, and it’s time to get it filled. While you’d rather avoid getting cavities at all, when it’s time to get a filling it’s important to know about the wide variety of options that are available to you. Generally, dental fillings fall into one of two categories: metal or tooth-coloured. We’ll go over some of the options available in both categories, as well as their advantages and disadvantages:
The main advantage of metal fillings is that they tend to be incredibly durable, lasting well over a decade without needing to be replaced. The main disadvantage of metal fillings is that they alter the look of your teeth – in other words, the main disadvantage is cosmetic. That’s why some patients prefer to have metal fillings placed on their back teeth only, where they won’t be as noticeable. The two most commonly used types of metal fillings are dental amalgam and gold.
Dental amalgam fillings are long-lasting. They’re also the least expensive type of filling. Other than the cosmetic disadvantage inherent to all metal fillings, some people worry about how safe dental amalgam is. Dental amalgam contains mercury, and the fact that “you shouldn’t ingest mercury” is pretty common knowledge. Fortunately, dental amalgam is safe. The mercury in the amalgam is stable due to its interaction with other metals in the amalgam. The mercury you may be exposed to is well below the threshold at which it may cause harm, even if you’re a person who is particularly susceptible to mercury.
Gold fillings are the longest-lasting fillings available – they’re also the most expensive. Some people quite dislike the look of gold fillings, while others find them appealing – there’s no accounting for taste, so it’s up to you!
Tooth-coloured fillings typically come in three forms: composite, glass ionomer, and porcelain. The main advantage of these types of filling is clear – they’re tooth-coloured, so they’re more or less unnoticeable.
Composite fillings are typically used on the front teeth. They’re weaker than metal fillings, so they’re rarely used on molars, where constant bite pressure could be an issue. They cost more than amalgam fillings, but less than gold, so they’re an excellent middle-of-the-road option if you’re concerned about cosmetics.
Glass ionomer fillings have fluoride, so they can help prevent tooth decay. They are, however, less long-lasting than other fillings, and they cost more than dental amalgam. Like composite fillings, they’re almost exclusively used on teeth where sustained pressure won’t be an issue.
Porcelain fillings are among the most expensive fillings you can get. Their main advantage is that they’re very long-lasting compared to other tooth-coloured fillings. The main disadvantage? As you might suspect, porcelain doesn’t hold up well to pressure, so they can’t be used on molars, either.
When talking to your dentist (or any other medical professional), remember that it is your right to know the details of the treatment you’re receiving. Curious about what fillings are going to be used, or interested in discussing the nature of those fillings? Talk to us. We do dental fillings in Winnipeg, and we’re more than happy to answer any questions about the materials we use.