Chances are, you’ll have a dental filling at some point in your life. Studies have shown that the average American has three dental fillings, while 25% of the population have 11 or more fillings. Put simply, dental fillings are artificial substances that are used to fill in holes or gaps that can be found in the enamel of decayed, broken or damaged teeth. It is a simple procedure and nothing to be worried about if you do need one. Let’s take a moment to get to know a little more about fillings, as well as the different types of fillings that can be used.
The Purpose of Dental Fillings
As we’ve briefly highlighted above, dental fillings are most commonly used to restore the shape and stability of a tooth that has experienced some sort of damage. Fillings can prevent further decay and potential loss of the tooth, as well as helping to make chewing easier and more comfortable. Most commonly, dental fillings will be used to combat tooth decay, injured or broken teeth and worn out or eroded teeth.
How are Dental Fillings Put in Place?
If you are going to have a dental filling, your dentist will numb the gums around the affected tooth. This will be achieved by using an injection of local anesthetic. Once you have no feeling in the area, your dentist will survey the affected tooth and determine the amount of decay or damage present. The affected areas of the teeth will then be treated, with decay being removed and the tooth being cleaned, washed and dried. Your dentist will then place your chosen filling material into the affected area, molding it to recreate the original shape of the tooth.
Types of dental fillings
There are a number of different filling materials that can be used to carry out a filling. Here are some of the most commonly used.
- Tooth, white colored fillings or composite resin – These fillings are a mixture of powdered glass and plastic resin and are most commonly referred to as white, plastic or tooth-colored fillings. These are the favored types of filling used here at Scott Chandler DMD in Park City, Utah. Why? Well, they are the most natural looking filling and when you have them, people are extremely unlikely to be aware that you have fillings at all. Another benefit of these types of fillings is that they also release small amounts of fluoride. This can help reduce the chance of experiencing further tooth decay and dental problems.
- Silver fillings or silver amalgam – This is another extremely common form of filling. It’s one of the most widely used, largely because it is one of the cheapest options and provides strong results that are likely to stand the test of time. These types of fillings are made using a mixture of silver alloy and mercury. Of course, when we think of mercury, we think of toxicity, but both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Dental Federation approves the use of silver amalgam for dental fillings.
- Glass ionomer cement – This is a less common form of filling material. It is self-hardening and combines glass with organic acid to create a tooth colored filling. Glass ionomer cement is most commonly used for small fillings or for cementing porcelain and metal crowns. Sometimes, it can be used for temporary restorations.
- Resin ionomer cement – This mixture of glass, resin polymer and organic acid is another alternative form of tooth colored filling that, again, is most often used for smaller fillings or for cementing. It solidifies with exposure to blue light.
- Gold alloys – these fillings are gold and less common. While they are extremely durable, they are expensive and can increase tooth sensitivity. These fillings contain a mixture of gold, copper and other metals.
As you can see, there are a number of different filling materials available for different types of fillings and other dental procedures. The right option for you will depend on your individual needs and requirements, but we largely recommend composite materials.