Whether your dental fillings last a lifetime depends on a number of factors, but the biggest variable is the relationship between your dentist and you. Learn more about the lifespan for all types of dental restorations options and the pros and cons of each type of new teeth.
Dental fillings: The hype about each type
Yes, the gold used to fill cavities in teeth is real gold. Although, it has a much lower carat value than what is in, let’s say, your wedding ring. That’s because—well, your spouse isn’t cheap, and—the gold is an alloy, mixed with other metals.
But that’s the problem with gold, too. It’s significantly more expensive than any other dental fill material, and it requires multiple visits to your dentist. The first visit is to create an impression for the filling; the next visit is to place the filling on the tooth. This drives up your costs even more. Meanwhile, gold doesn’t blend in with your white teeth, so if you want your fillings to go under the radar, go with another option.
On the bright side, gold can be used for crowns as well as inlays and onlays. They can last a lifetime, or at least 15+ years, in large part because it doesn’t corrode.
TIP: If you’re going to gold, go all the way. If gold and amalgam fillings are right next to each other in your mouth, you can experience an uncomfortable shock when saliva builds up on both metals.
If you like metals and lower dental costs, amalgam might be the right filling for you. Made of a mixture of silver, tin, zinc, copper and mercury, amalgam fillings are the least expensive restorative material available. The fillings are strong and durable, typically lasting more than a decade.
Although they won’t last as long as gold, amalgam fillings also won’t take as long to get done. The fillings can be completed in one dental visit. Similar to gold, amalgam doesn’t really match tooth color, and over time, they corrode. Ironically, your dentist may have to remove more of the tooth to secure the bonding correctly.
Composite resin fillings solve some of the issues gold and amalgam cannot. Match the color of your teeth? Check. Keep the process to one dental visit? Check. Stronger bonding than amalgam? Check.
With these advantages comes a price. Composite resins cost more than amalgam fillings, but still less than gold. And that single visit could become multiple visits if the composite doesn’t make good contact with your tooth or the composite shrinks during placement. These gaps can lead to more cavities. And that’s no fun at all.
Don’t think delicate china, think versatile ceramic. Used for inlays and onlays, crowns, veneers, implants, and orthodontic brackets porcelain can last more than seven years. It costs more than composite and as much as or more than gold, depending on the filling.
Ceramics are tooth-colored as well as more resistant to staining and abrasion than composite resin. But ceramics can break. To prevent it from breaking, the tooth must be reduced in size so extra material can be implanted.
Glass ionomer cement
Who wouldn’t want glass and cement in their mouth? It’s way better than it sounds. Newer versions of composite glass ionomer fillings are fairly strong and versatile. They also have the ability to release fluoride, so patients with significant tooth decay under the gumline are a good match for this material.
The traditional versions, however, have some issues with fracturing. So overall, this material doesn’t typically last beyond the five-year mark.
Conversing with your dentist: Step one to your best mouth
Clearly, there are many choices and all of them have advantages and disadvantages. This means you need a dentist who will take the time to explain your particular situation and make a recommendation you can trust. Take one guess where such a dentist may be.
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