Types of tooth fillings

Dental cavities are one of the most common health issues in the United States. The simplest and most effective restorative treatment for most dental cavities is a dental filling. Fillings are available in a number of different materials and at varying levels of complexity.

The most traditional type of dental filling is an amalgam filling. Dentists have been using amalgam fillings for more than 150 years. Amalgam fillings are made of a mixture of metals, usually including copper, tin, silver, zinc, and medically safe amounts of elemental mercury. Amalgam fillings are extremely durable and resilient, and amalgam is the least expensive material that is used to make dental fillings. Amalgam fillings are silver in color, and this color tends to darken over time, making amalgam fillings rather obtrusive and visible when you open your mouth. Additionally, although the US Food and Drug Administration has conducted multiple studies over nearly a hundred years to confirm that the low levels of mercury in amalgam fillings are harmless, some people still prefer to not have mercury in their fillings. For these reasons, amalgam fillings may not be the first choice for everyone.

Composite dental fillings are made of a combination of acrylic resin and glass. Composite fillings can be tinted to match the wearer’s natural teeth, allowing them to be inconspicuous in the mouth, and they can be sculpted and bonded directly onto the teeth, allowing for a relatively brief treatment time. Because of their unobtrusive appearance, composite fillings have grown in popularity in more recent years. Composite fillings aren’t recommended for everyone, though. The composite material isn’t as durable as amalgam fillings, and the life of the composite filling is therefore often shorter than other available options. For smaller teeth that don’t undergo a significant amount of pressure during chewing, composite fillings may be the best choice, but they may not be recommended for the teeth that bear most of the force of your chewing, like the rear molars.

Gold fillings are among the most durable filling options. American Dental Association (ADA) research has noted fillings that have lasted 20 years or longer. Gold fillings are also among the most expensive filling options, however. They are also indirect fillings, meaning that they are sculpted outside of the mouth, based on a mold of your teeth, and they therefore take longer to place in the mouth. Porcelain fillings are also indirect fillings, like gold, and they may require extended dental visits. They also tend to be very expensive. They are far more fragile than gold fillings, however, but they also look the most like natural teeth in both hue and translucence.

Despite the variety of fillings available, it is still preferable, of course, to have no fillings at all. The best approach to cavity prevention is excellent oral hygiene, including brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled brush, as well as flossing daily. Dentists also recommend periodic dental examinations, including professional cleanings, to prevent tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease. With the proper preventative steps, you may be able to entirely avoid having to learn about the different types of dental fillings.

More on Dental Fillings : Temporary Tooth Fillings

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