A filling restores a tooth that has been damaged by decay and prevents further decay. In this article, we outline the different options available for tooth fillings, each of which has its own pros and cons. Your dentist will determine which type of filling is most suitable for your individual circumstances based on the extent of repair, where the filling is needed, and your specific dental requirements.
A composite resin filling is made up of a mixture of plastic and glass particles and is now more frequently used instead of silver amalgam fillings. It is a popular choice because a specific shade and colour can be used that matches your natural tooth so it cannot be seen in the mouth, although it can cost twice as much as an amalgam filling. The composite resin bonds directly to the tooth and a light is shone onto it to set it. No drilling is required to apply a composite filling and the material can also be used to repair chipped or broken teeth. However, if used as an inlay or onlay, more than one visit to the dentist’s chair is required. Composite is durable but is less durable and hard wearing than amalgam, lasting on average about 5 years. Hence, it is not ideal for larger fillings as it can wear over time and is more susceptible to staining. It is more appropriate for teeth that experience a moderate amount of pressure and is often used on the front teeth.
Amalgam fillings are made from a mixture of metals including mercury, silver, tin, copper, and zinc. It is estimated that dentists have been using this type of filling for more than 150 years! Amalgam fillings are very strong and durable and last at least 10-15 years. Because of this, they are most often used on the back teeth where they can withstand large amounts of chewing. Amalgam fillings can also be applied in just one visit and are the least costly and most affordable filling option. On the other hand, amalgam also has its disadvantages. Due to their silver colour, these fillings do not match the colour of the teeth so can be highly visible and can corrode, discolour, and darken even more over time. Amalgam metal can also expand and contract, causing cracks and damage to the teeth over time. Further, during application, the metal material does not bond to the tooth and healthy parts of the tooth must be removed to make way for the filling. Although studies state that the mercury in amalgam fillings is safe for those over the age of 6, some can be allergic to the metal filling.
Ceramic fillings are made from porcelain and can be expensive. These fillings are aesthetically pleasing as they are tooth coloured and so match the natural tooth. They are hard-wearing and long-lasting, on average lasting more than 7 years. Ceramic or porcelain fillings are used as inlays and onlays and for crowns, veneers, and implants. As they are indirect fillings, they require multiple visits to the dentist to complete their application but are bonded to the tooth for added strength. Ceramic fillings are much more brittle than any other type so are much more fragile and susceptible to breaking, but they are more resistant to staining than other materials such as composite.
Glass ionomer fillings are made from acrylic and fluoroaluminosilicate, which is a component of glass. These fillings match the tooth colour, making them less visible than silver fillings, and form a chemical bond with the tooth. Glass ionomers also release fluoride to help protect the teeth from further damage. These fillings are not very strong and are much weaker and more prone to wear than other types of filling, lasting just 5 years. As a result, they are mostly used on non-biting surfaces including around the necks of the teeth, below the gum line, and on baby teeth.
Gold fillings are the most durable and long-lasting type of filling, lasting at least 15 years and some more than 20 years. Gold fillings do no corrode and are used as inlays, onlays, on biting surfaces, and crowns as they can withstand large levels of chewing. However, gold fillings are visible as they do not match the natural colour of the teeth. They are indirect fillings so require at least two trips to the dentist. Gold fillings are also the most expensive type, and can cost up to 10 times more than amalgam.
Fillings at Bright & White Dental Spa
To learn more about the different types of filling or if you have a question about fillings, get in touch with us today and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Here are Bright & White we specialise in white fillings which can replace existing fillings and dramatically improve the appearance of your smile.
If you need a filling, our dentists will assess your circumstances to determine which type of filling is right for you.