A dental filling is used to repair damage to a tooth or to reshape a tooth. Examples of when a filling may be used are:
- Repairing damage from decay (caries)
- Repairing broken and fractured teeth from wear or trauma
- Replacing old and broken down fillings
- Stopping sensitivity
- Changing the appearance of teeth
There are three main types of fillings used – composite, amalgam, and glass ionomer cement (GIC) fillings.
Composite fillings are tooth coloured fillings. They come in multiple shades allowing us to match them beautifully to your natural tooth colour. Composites may also be used as a means of disguising discoloured teeth or reshaping the appearance of teeth.
Composites are made of a mix of glass and plastic particles which forms a soft mouldable material allowing us to recreate the tooth shape. The composite is bonded to the tooth using a resin based bonding material and built up in layers. Each layer is set with a curing light to create a strong tooth coloured structure. The filling is then shaped and polished.
Composites conserve tooth tissue as they bonds to any cavity shape and special shape preparation is not required like the amalgams require.
Amalgam fillings are the silver or dark looking fillings which were and are used on the back teeth. They have been used for hundreds of years – with evidence showing they are extremely strong and long lasting fillings.
Amalgam fillings are a mix of metals – generally silver, tin, copper and mercury. There has been much debate about the risk of using mercury, however there is no scientific evidence to suggest that amalgam fillings leak any mercury or place you at any risk.
The silver in the amalgam helps prevent recurrence of bacteria and decay – this plus their strength is why they have such longevity.
Amalgam fillings do not bond to the tooth, but are held in place by retention. This means undercuts and grooves need to be made in the tooth structure to hold the filling in place.
Glass ionomer fillings
A glass ionomer filling is also a tooth coloured filling. However the colour match of these is not as good as the composite fillings. They also bond to the tooth structure therefore don’t require any additional removal of tooth tissue.
The Glass ionomer filling is a lot softer than both the composite and amalgam. They wear faster but keep the tooth incredibly healthy due to a slow release of fluoride. They are very useful in patients who have a high decay (caries) rate, as a temporary filling, when the filling is smaller and as a base for deeper fillings.
When a filling becomes large, it may be recommended to place a ceramic or gold crown, inlay or onlay to increase longevity. The lifespan of all the filling types reduces as they become larger.
We can discuss options with you and suggest which may be the best option when we see you.