Restoring Your Smile: Dental Filling Choices

Posted on February 15, 2010 in Dental Articles

PictureA dental restoration or filling is a dental restorative material used to restore the cavity or fracture which results from cavity or external injury. It is also lost intentionally during tooth preparation to improve the aesthetics or the physical integrity of the intended restorative material.

Several factors influence the performance, durability, longevity and cost of dental restorations. These factors include: the client’s oral and general health, the comparison used in the filling material; where and how the filling is placed; the chewing load that the tooth will have to bear; and the length and the number of the visits needed to prepare and adjust the restored tooth.

With so many choices, how do you know what is right for you? To help you better understand what is available, here are the advantages and disadvantages of commonly used dental restorations. 

PictureUsed by dentists for more than a century, dental amalgam is the most thoroughly researched and tested restorative material among all those in use. It is durable, easy to use, highly resistant to wear and relatively inexpensive in comparison to other materials.

Amalgam fillings can withstand very high chewing loads; they are particularly useful for restoring molars in the back of the mouth where chewing load is greatest.

Disadvantages of amalgam inlude possible short-term sensitivity to hot or cold after the filling is placed. The silver-colored filling is not as natural looking as one that is tooth colored, especially when the restoration is near the front of the mouth, and shows when the patient laughs or speaks. And to prepare the tooth, the dentist may need to remove more tooth structure to accomodate an amalgam filling than for other types of fillings.

PictureComposite fillings are a mixture of glass or quartz filler in a resin medium that produces a tooth-colored filling. They are sometimes referred to as composite resins. Composite fillings provide good durability and resistance to fracture in small-to-mid size restorations that need to withstand moderate chewing pressure. Due to the development of new technology, now composite resins can withstand more higher chewing pressure compare to the old generation material. Less tooth structure is removed then the dentist prepares the tooth, and this may result in a smaller filling than that of an amalgam. Composites can also be “bonded” or adhesively held in a cavity, often allowing the dentist to make a more conservative repair to the tooth.
Composite resins has many different colors. So it is easy for you and your dentist to choose a good color to match your real tooth and make your fillings looks more natural.

The cost is moderate and depends on the size of the filling and the technique used by the dentist to place it in the prepared tooth. It generally takes longer to place a composite filling than what is required for an amalgam filling. Composite fillings require a cavity that can be kept clean and dry during filling and they are subject to stain and discoloration over time.

PictureGlass ionomers are translucent, tooth-colored materials made of a mixture of acrylic acids and fine glass powders that are used to fill cavities, particularly those on the roof surfaces of teeth. Glass ionomers can release a small amount of fluoride that may be beneficial for clients who are at high risk for decay. When the dentist prepares the tooth for a glass ionomer, less tooth structure can be removed; this may result in a smaller filling than that of an amalgam.

Glass ionomers are primarily used in areas not subject to heavy chewing pressure. Because they have a low resistance to fracture, glass ionomers are mostly used in small non-load bearing fillings (those between the teeth) or on the roots of teeth and for most of milk teeth.

Ionomers experience high wear when placed on chewing surfaces. Both glass and resin ionomers mimic natural tooth color but lack the natural translucency of enamel. Both types are well tolerated by patients with only rare occurrences of allergic response