When you look at your smile in the mirror, we hope you love what you see. But if you've recently noticed holes in your teeth or have been in searching for toothache remedies, the best thing to do is visit your dentist for a dental exam. In just one visit, your dentist should be able to identify whether you have cavities and need a tooth filling.
Dentists use dental fillings -- the material that "fills" the spaces in your teeth left by tooth decay -- to restore teeth. A dental filling is also used to repair cracks and broken areas in your teeth, and to repair areas that have been worn down.
As far as dental procedures go, a cavity filling procedure is relatively simple. Dental fillings generally take just one or two dental visits to complete, and involve removing decay, cleaning the tooth and then filling it with a restorative material such as amalgam, composite resin or porcelain.
Your dentist can help you choose which type of tooth filling is best for you based on the size of the space to be filled, aesthetics, durability of dental filling materials and dental filling costs.
Types of Fillings: Amalgam Fillings, Composite Fillings, Etc.
Amalgam -- The most common type of dental filling, amalgam fillings are usually referred to as silver fillings. Amalgam fillings are the least expensive type of tooth filling and are so durable that they've outlasted many hairstyle fads, fashion trends and celebrity divorces. Aside from its most obvious aesthetic drawback, amalgam fillings usually require more healthy parts of the tooth be removed to make a space large enough to hold the filling.
Composite Resin -- Don't like the look of amalgam fillings? Composite resin fillings may be the way to go. This type of cavity filling is best for those who care a lot about aesthetics as well as function because they match the natural color of your teeth. That makes composite dental fillings perfect for patients who don't want to smile showing front teeth with a touch of silver (which may turn bluish-gray over time). Composite dental fillings are also versatile enough to repair a chipped tooth, broken tooth or worn teeth. They are not as economical as amalgam fillings and also don't last as long.
Cast Gold -- Where there's silver, there's usually gold. The same is true for dental fillings. A gold tooth filling is 10 times more expensive than most, but they are also more durable, lasting up to 35 years. Unlike other types of dental fillings, a gold cavity filling requires up to two dental office visits to place and, obviously, don't look like natural teeth.
Ceramic -- Another tooth-colored dental filling alternative to composite resin fillings are ceramic fillings, which are often made of porcelain, making them more resistant to staining. They are chemically bonded to natural teeth which can even strengthen them and may last for over 15 years.
Inlays and Onlays -- Dental inlays or onlays are more visually appealing, stronger and longer-lasting alternatives to traditional dental fillings, used when not enough structure exists to support a tooth filling or when a tooth is not so damaged that it needs a dental crown.
Temporary Fillings -- Temporary dental fillings are meant to last for about a month, and are used for a variety of situations:
- When there is not enough time or money to complete a full cavity filling procedure
- To follow a root canal
Watch The Filling of a Tooth
Learning about dental fillings is a great step toward restoring your smile, but the only way to put your knowledge to work for your smile is to visit a great dentist.