Different Types Of Dental Fillings
Dental fillings are an important part of tooth care as they can repair the damage, improve your smile and offer protection against further decay. They are also one of the few areas of professional dentistry where you may be given several choices about the materials used.
Since fillings were first introduced in the early 19th century, multiple improvements have been made to ensure they are safe, painless and durable without side effects. Composite fillings, which are the most recent development in dental filling technology, offer an exceptionally natural look and feel.
However, silver, gold and porcelain options are also available. Here we will look at the different types of fillings available in Canada, their benefits and uses along with answering important questions about dental fillings.
Dental Fillings Available in Canada
Dental fillings available in Canada include gold, silver, metal amalgam, composite, glass isomer and porcelain. Let’s take a closer look at each:
Gold fillings are prized for their durability and, before more natural-looking filling options were available, would have been considered a status symbol. However, the look of gold fillings is generally not desirable currently which makes their extra cost less justifiable.
If you are considering gold fillings, be aware of these benefits and drawbacks:
Benefits of Gold Fillings:
- Gold fillings are considered durable and will last between 10 and 15 years or more.
- Typically made from 16 karat gold, these fillings can be sold or repurposed once extracted.
- Gold is able to withstand greater impact than other materials which makes it the most reliable option for anyone who tends to chew hard foods.
- While natural-looking fillings are the most popular aesthetic choice, gold fillings are generally considered more attractive than silver.
- Gold is resistant to both corrosion and erosion.
Drawbacks of Golds Fillings
- Gold is the most expensive filling option and can be up to 10X the price of silver amalgam. They can be similar in price to porcelain but with less aesthetic appeal.
- Gold fillings are very noticeable in the mouth which is not a preferred look for many.
- Multiple office visits will be needed to complete a gold filling.
Amalgams (Silver Fillings)
Amalgams are often referred to as “silver” fillings because of their silver-like appearance, not because they are 100% silver. Instead, amalgams can have several metals including tin, copper and silver. However, half of an amalgam will be made of mercury.
Is Mercury in Amalgam Fillings Safe?
The amount of mercury vapour released from a filling is generally considered too small to cause any adverse health effects. However; the debate over their safety carries on and the popularity of this filling style has fallen in recent decades.
Additionally, if you already have silver fillings it is generally considered safer to leave them in. Unless the filling or tooth surrounding it is damaged, attempting to remove the filling could generate more mercury exposure than leaving it in.
Benefits of Silver Amalgam Fillings
- Silver amalgams are almost always less expensive than other filling types, especially gold and porcelain.
- Silver fillings are more durable than composite fillings though usually not quite as long-lasting as gold.
- Because they are metal, they can withstand considerable force.
Drawbacks to Amalgams
- Even though mercury vapour from a filling is considered low, a very small portion of patients may have an allergic reaction to it. This reaction is different from the general health concerns over mercury and can cause a variety of symptoms including tremors, changes in mood, headaches and muscle weakness.
- Healthy portions of the tooth often need to be removed in order to make room for the silver filling.
- The tooth surrounding the amalgam can take on a dingy, greyish colour.
- Amalgams may increase cracks and damage to the tooth. Hot and cold temperatures will cause all teeth to expand and contract but amalgams tend to experience greater changes which can cause stress to the surrounding tooth.
Composite fillings are made of a mixture of plastic and ceramic. Because of the nature of these materials, composites can be coloured to blend in with your natural teeth. This feature along with a moderate price point makes these a popular choice.
Benefits of Composite Fillings
- The look of composites is their biggest selling feature as they can blend seamlessly with your natural teeth.
- Composites are less expensive than gold or ceramic fillings.
- Because of their superior ability to bond to the natural tooth, composites can help fortify your teeth.
- Composites often allow more of your natural tooth to be saved as they do not need as much room to be placed as metal fillings.
Drawbacks of Composites
- Though composites are cheaper than other options they are less durable. Composites will last at least 5 years but gold and silver fillings will last a minimum of 10.
- Composites are roughly double the price of amalgams but still cheaper than gold or ceramic.
- Composites are more prone to cracking from chewing on hard foods and can also chip off with an impact.
- Large cavities are also best left to other materials as composites are more fragile.
Porcelain fillings offer the aesthetic appeal of composite fillings combined with the durability of metal fillings. However, this comes at a significantly higher cost along with other considerations.
Benefits of Ceramic Fillings
- Ceramic fillings can be made to match the exact colour of your natural teeth.
- These fillings are more resistant to stains than composite fillings.
- It is not uncommon for ceramic fillings to last over 20 years.
- Longevity translates to fewer dental visits and cost of savings.
Drawbacks of Ceramic Fillings
- Cost is often the biggest consideration when it comes to porcelain fillings as they can be equal to the price of gold.
- Ceramics can be used to create an overlay to correct the appearance of a tooth but this typically involves grinding down the natural tooth to make room. Since overlays do not last forever, losing part of the natural tooth is not ideal.
Glass Ionomer Fillings
These tooth-coloured fillings are made of a special form of glass and acrylic. Since they are not particularly durable, these types of fillings are only used in very specific cases. These tend to be reserved for:
- Temporary fillings such as the ones that are placed while waiting for a permanent implant.
- Cavities that are below the gum-line or on the base of the tooth. These areas of the tooth are not used for chewing so they can be fixed with a less durable material like glass ionomer.
- Correcting cavities in baby teeth. Though baby teeth will be replaced with adult teeth, a cavity must still be fixed as the bacteria and decay can spread causing pain and infection. Glass ionomers are great for this use as they can be formulated to give off fluoride which will help keep surrounding teeth healthy.
Common Questions About Dental Fillings in Canada
Are dental fillings necessary even when you don’t feel pain?
While some tooth damage like small cracks may be able to heal on their own with the help of proper oral hygiene, deeper and wider cavities do require a filling.
Some people believe that if they do not feel pain in the tooth, then a filling is not required. Again, while there may be exceptions for very small cracks, once the damage turns into a cavity, a dental filling should be placed as soon as possible. This is because that cavity is likely to continue growing and causing more severe damage.
When a small cavity is allowed to grow unchecked, a variety of issues can develop including abscesses, a deep infection that could require a root canal. Bone loss and tooth loss along with bad breath that cannot be brushed away can also develop.
Since small cavities may not cause discomfort, it is important to get regular dental checkups where your dentist will be able to identify problem areas. Your dentist will often be able to perform small, simple fillings on the same day as a cleaning and checkup appointment which is even more incentive to get checked early.
Are Dental Fillings Only for Cavities?
Cavities are formed when bacteria penetrate the hard outer layer of the tooth which is made of enamel. These can form due to poor oral hygiene, consumption of sugary foods, injury to the teeth, and some medical conditions make a person more susceptible to them.
They are the most common reason you will need a filing, but there are a few others which include:
- Replacement of a broken filling
- Fractures and cracks in the enamel
- Fortify a weakened tooth structure
- Fix tooth discoloration
- Preventative care on small holes in the tooth which have not yet formed cavities
How Do I Care for Dental Fillings?
Dental fillings will function much the way your own natural teeth do and should be cared for in the same manner. This includes brushing twice a day and flossing once a day along with using an antibacterial mouthwash.
Pain and sensitivity should go away within a few days after a filling has been placed though some deep cavities may cause sensitivity for several weeks. Your dentist may advise you to switch to a soft toothbrush and oral hygiene products designated for sensitive teeth and gums to minimize discomfort.
Can I Eat After Getting a Filling?
Resin-based composite fillings will harden immediately and will allow you to eat directly after your procedure. However, the resins can crack with an excessive force so it is best to avoid certain foods like hard candies and chewing on ice. Your natural teeth will also benefit from a diet that does not include excessively crunchy things as well.
Metal-based fillings will take up to 24 hours to harden so solid foods should be avoided during this time. However, metal fillings are stronger and are less likely to be affected by hard foods over time.
Conclusion – Choosing the Right Filling for You
Multiple factors will go into deciding which filling type is right for you. Considerations include cost, placement of the filling, durability and longevity.
For most cavities, a composite filling is going to offer the greatest versatility. It is not only natural-looking, but moderately priced and can last five to ten years or longer when well cared for.
However, if your cavity is quite large, a composite may not be strong enough. Composites also do not have the longevity of silver or gold fillings. For large cavities in the back of the mouth where the greatest impact of chewing is felt, a metal filling may be a better choice.
Porcelain fillings, in contrast, have the aesthetic appeal of composites and greater durability than metal fillings. However, they have the largest upfront cost which can make them prohibitively expensive.
If you are experiencing a cavity or other tooth damage, the important thing to remember is that a filling of any kind will help to prevent further decay. Getting a filling as soon as possible can help you avoid greater complications and expense.
Unsure if you need a dental filling or what kind? The caring and compassionate team at Singer Dental Care in Ajax is here to help. We offer several dental filling options to suit your needs and to restore your smile. Call us today to set up a consultation!
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