Regardless of how well you care for your teeth, at some point in time it’s likely you’ll need a filling. From cavities to cracked teeth, fillings prevent tooth decay from worsening and restore your dental health. Here is a list of all the options you can discuss with your dentist when the need arises. We’re going to focus on the pros and cons, which in most cases come down to: cost, color-matching and durability.
An amalgam is a mix of metals, such as silver, tin, copper and mercury. The fillings have been used by dentists for generations. So if you care to peak inside grandma’s mouth, chances are she has these silver-colored fillings somewhere. They are durable, and even though they use silver (they are mostly mercury), they are not too expensive. The problem? Your fillings will look like fillings, your grandma’s fillings.
Some powdered glass and even crystal quartz mixed with acrylic resin creates something the dental world calls composite tooth fillings. Unlike their metal counterparts, these fillings match the natural color of your teeth remarkably well. That, and their relative affordability, explains their popularity with patients.
What’s good for some teeth cannot be good for all teeth, unfortunately. Composite fillings have a tendency to wear down sooner than other materials. So, the teeth that endure a lot of heavy lifting (or chewing) are not the best candidates for these fillings if you are looking for something to last several years or more. And, they’re white, so they can stain if you’re not careful about things like regularly brushing after coffee, wine or other foods that tend to leave their mark.
Most ceramic fillings are made of porcelain, thanks to the material’s strength. Also due to that strength, most patients can expect them to have a longer lifespan than composites. Nonetheless, they have their downfalls too. They are more pricey than composites and they can stain, too. However, ceramics typically stave off those stains longer and better than composites.
These fillings are made of an acrylic and fluoroaluminosilicate, an ingredient within glass. They are very similar to composites with the added benefit of having tooth decay fighting capabilities. They actually release fluoride around the fillings, making them an excellent fit for patients with a history of constant tooth decay. The color match to your natural teeth is not as spot on as composites or ceramics, but much more natural than amalgam, of course.
The big daddy of all the fillings is gold. It’s the most durable, typically lasting more than 15 years and holding up to hard chewing during the entire stretch. It also does not corrode. The main issue with gold is that it costs its weight in gold, plus the extra work your dentist needs to put in when putting them in. Gold also can’t be tweaked to match tooth-coloring, but many patients like having gold fillings rather than silver-colored ones. The bling makes some folks smile.
Cost, color and durability were the filters we used to talk about fillers, but when you meet with your dentist he or she may be recommending a different filling per tooth. Some materials simply work better than others depending on the type of teeth needing help and the part of the tooth needing help. And if you’re not a fan of work being done on your mouth, you’ll want to ask how many visits will be needed before the work is done.