No matter your age or health status, no one wants to hear the bad news that they have a dental cavity that needs to be filled. Unfortunately, even people who practice healthy dental hygiene can suffer from tooth decay that requires dental care. Getting a filling is simply a routine part of dental care. Interestingly, though, there are different types of dental fillings.
How to Prevent Cavities
While we may not be able to prevent all cavities, there are steps we can take to promote healthier teeth and reduce the risk. To help avoid the need for a dental filling:
1) Brush all sides of all your teeth at least twice a day, every day.
2) Remove debris between each tooth via flossing, water flossing, or interdental cleaners.
3) Limit the sugars consumed and rinse your mouth (or brush your teeth) after consuming sweet or starchy foods and drinks like hard candies, treats, soda, bread, crackers, and sports drinks.
4) Consider having sealants applied by your dentist to help protect the teeth from bacteria and plaque between visits.
5) Schedule regular visits (at least twice a year) with your dentist for a cleaning and to check on the health of your entire mouth.
Types of Dental Fillings
If your dentist does find a dental cavity, they will likely recommend getting the cavity filled as soon as possible to protect the health of the tooth and prevent infection.
The first step will be to remove the damage from the tooth, leaving an empty hole. Next, to help protect the remaining tooth from further decay, the dentist will fill the space and then even out the tooth surface.
Five types of dental filling materials are commonly used, such as:
Silver Amalgam Fillings are the most widely known and used type of filling in much of the world. The material is made up of 50% silver, tin, zinc, and copper and 50% mercury.
It’s popular due to its strength, durability, and affordability. Typically, these types of
fillings can last 15+ years.
There are disadvantages, though. First is that it’s very apparent that you have a filling as they are silver rather than tooth-colored. So many dentists avoid using them on visible teeth. In addition, silver amalgam can expand and contract, which can cause a tooth to crack over the years. It can also leave room between the teeth and the fillings, allowing food and bacteria to enter. Over time, this can lead to new cavities.
These types of fillings are also not recommended for certain vulnerable populations due to the mercury they contain. For instance, pregnant or nursing women or women who are planning to become pregnant, children under six years old, and people with certain pre-existing diseases, such as neurological diseases and impaired kidney function, may want to consider an alternative material.
Fortunately, there are other types of dental fillings that can be used instead.
Gold Fillings are seen less often due to their high cost. Few dentists even offer this as an option as they’re expensive, difficult to find, and take more than one office visit. Gold also stands out against other teeth. On the plus side, gold fillings are durable, don’t corrode, and can last more than 20 years!
Composite Fillings are made up of a combination of resin and plastic. These fillings are placed into the hole while soft and harden under a curing light. These dental fillings are a highly popular option as they can be tinted to match the color and shade of the surrounding teeth, so they blend in and look more natural. Composite fillings can also be used for veneers, inlays, and crowns as well as to help repair and restore broken or chipped teeth.
There are a few disadvantages, though. For instance, they aren’t as long-lasting as some other types of fillings, and they may need to be replaced every five to ten years (averaging around seven years). They’re also more costly than silver amalgam fillings.
Ceramic Fillings are often called inlays or onlays. These porcelain fillings are durable and also blend well into existing teeth due to their coloring. They also tend to be more resistant to stains or damage than resin fillings.
However, they tend to be more expensive and can become brittle over time. They are only recommended for larger fillings as smaller fillings are more prone to breaking.
Glass Ionomer Fillings are a less well-known option. They’re typically used only for children whose teeth are still growing and changing. This is because they only last a couple of years before they begin to crack and wear out. They’re also only appropriate for smaller cavities. As a bonus, they are tooth-colored, and they also release fluoride to help protect the teeth from further decay.
Any of the above options can be used to fill a cavity. However, some materials work better in certain conditions. Your dentist can help guide you as you decide the best option for your needs, current health, and budget.
Do Dental Fillings Hurt?
Dread and fear before getting a cavity filled are common feelings. While dental fillings can hurt (depending on the location and the level of decay), there is typically little to no discomfort. And getting the filling as quickly as possible can help eliminate or at least reduce the pain and potential for infection that the cavity itself can pose. If cavities are left untreated, the tooth can continue to decay, potentially leading to abscessed or failing teeth that require more invasive
procedures, such as an extraction or root canal and crown.
Don’t be afraid to discuss your fears with your dentist, who can explain what to expect from the procedure and what they can do to help make you more comfortable. They can also discuss the different types of dental fillings and which option may be best for you and your situation.
If you have a damaged or painful tooth, contact our High Point Cosmetic Dentistry Practice at (366) 841-0000 to make an appointment today to improve the health and appearance of your smile.