When your tooth is broken or has decay it needs to be filled or restored to it’s original shape and function. The tooth can be restored with a large variety of materials and it is important to understand the differences between them.
There are five groups of dental filling materials.
- Composite filling materials have been developed in the last 40 years and are today much better than amalgam, which was the prevalent material in the past. Composite is a combination of a resin and glass or ceramic filler, the smaller the filler size, the better are the properties. At our practice we use materials which have the smallest particle size – nano materials. The advantages of these fillings are that they reinforce the tooth structure, they bond to the tooth and allow for restoring large parts of it, they do not conduct heat or cold reducing sensitivity and they are the same color of the tooth.
- Amalgam, or silver fillings, have been used to restore teeth for more than 150 years. It is a metal mixture, made of silver, copper, tin and mercury. Once mixed, the metals set and becomes a strong snd durable filling. The major advantage of amalgam is it’s low cost. The disadvantages are that it contains mercury, it does not reinforce the tooth, on the contrary it can weaken thin sections of the tooth, it conducts well heat so it can cause a sensitivity to hot and cold in large fillings and to make an amalgam filling, we need to remove more sound tooth material that for a composite filling.
- Ceramic fillings, are made of porcelain in the dental laboratory and have been shown to be resistant, durable and aesthetic. They can be bonded to the tooth and are smooth and durable. We use them extensively in areas where appearance matters most, for example when making veneers for front teeth. Their largest disadvantages are the high cost and long time it takes to fabricate them.
- Glass ionomer cements are a mixture of glass particles and acrylic resin. They are not resilient and resistant to wear, which reduces their lifespan to no more than five years. We use them for treating baby teeth that will be replaced. Other areas where we prefer to use them, are exposed root surfaces, since they have little wear and high risk of decay. The advantage of these dental fillings is that they release fluoride, which protects the tooth from further decay.
- Gold restorations are made of 14,18 or 24 karat gold and have been used in dentistry for hundreds of years. Gold fillings have many advantages, they are durable, non-corrosive, and can last more than 30 years. The main disadvantages of gold fillings are the high cost and poor aesthetic appearance. We use gold restorations for back teeth where they do not show.