Types of Tooth Fillings
If you have tooth decay that’s caused a cavity in your tooth, the solution is a dental filling. Most people have had at least one dental cavity treated in their lives, which means that most people have experience with dental fillings. Fillings are used to treat tooth decay by restoring the structure and function of the tooth while protecting the tooth from additional decay, and they are among the procedures most commonly performed by dentists; there’s nothing to worry about if your dentist tells you you need a filling! Getting a filling isn’t painful and shouldn’t take much time, and it’s even possible to get fillings that are totally invisible and blend in naturally with the rest of the tooth. In fact, there are a few different types of tooth fillings available, and you and your dentist can discuss the strengths and drawbacks of each type as you decide which tooth filling type is the ideal one for you.
When tooth decay has advanced and a cavity is more substantial, it’s usually pretty easy to tell it’s there; the tooth probably hurts, and it might even smell bad. When cavities are smaller, though, they might not cause any symptoms, and they’re much easier to repair when they’re small. Your dentist will assess your teeth for decay at your regular dental checkups, using a mirror to analyze the surfaces of the teeth and check for abnormalities, like discolored areas or areas of sensitivity to pressure or temperature, and taking x-rays when needed. If you need a filling, your options will depend, in part, on the extent of damage being repaired, and your dentist will discuss these options with you before proceeding with treatment. The type of filling you choose could depend on the location of the cavity, the cost of the material and treatment, any allergies you might have, and your preferred treatment time frame and results.
Gold fillings, which are well tolerated by the oral tissues and can be expected to last decades, are the most expensive types of fillings. These fillings require multiple visits, as they are made off-site in a lab and then cemented to the tooth, are a durable investment that’s most appropriately used in the back teeth, especially on the chewing surfaces where durability is more important than aesthetics. Silver-colored fillings, made of metallic amalgam, are also resistant to wear, though not as sturdy as gold, and are one of the more affordable options for dental fillings. Because of their dull metallic appearance, however, they are rarely recommended for highly visible areas of the mouth.
For less substantial fillings, especially in the aesthetic areas of the mouth, composite resin materials could be an excellent choice. Composite resins aren’t as durable as their metal counterparts, and they are prone to staining, but they match the color of the natural teeth and are ideal for visible, smaller areas of decay. Porcelain dental fillings, which are called onlays or inlays, also match the color of the teeth but are resistant to staining. These onlays and inlays are custom-made in a dental lab and then bonded to the teeth, much like gold fillings, and they are designed to cover most of the tooth and repair larger areas of decay. Like gold, they are also expensive, but they can be an ideal solution for significant decay in more visible areas of the mouth.