Dental tooth fillings are a restorative treatment, used to improve the appearance and functionality of teeth affected by damage or decay. The filling materials, which can be made from several different substances, help to even out tooth surfaces for more efficient biting and chewing and the ability to easily clean the tooth. Dental fillings can last for many years and help keep the tooth looking and functioning at its best.
Types of Dental Fillings
Composite FillingsComposite fillings are made of a glass or quartz filler within a resin medium that produces a tooth-colored material. Also known as filled resins, composites are often used in small to mid-size restorations, as they provide strength, durability and resistance to fracture. In addition, the shade of composite fillings is made to closely match the patient's actual teeth, so that other people will not be aware that dental work has been done.
Glass IonomersGlass ionomers are also tooth-colored fillings that are made of a mixture of acrylic and glass, and are most often used in young children, because they release fluoride. This material is weaker than composites and usually lasts less than five years before a replacement is needed.
Amalgam FillingsAmalgam fillings (silver or mercury fillings) have been used for over 150 years and are considered strong, durable and relatively inexpensive compared to other materials. Although strong and effective, many patients do not choose to use amalgam fillings because the silver color can be visible while eating, speaking or smiling. There has been a lot of questions and concerns about dental amalgam in the media and in the general population. Questions concerning the safety of these materials are valid and there is a summary of these findings on the ADA website here-Statement on Dental Amalgam. Our dentists would be glad to talk to you about the questions or concerns you may have. We no longer place new amalgam fillings in our practice.
The Dental Filling Procedure
During the filling procedure, the tooth is prepared by removing any decay or damage in the area with a dental hand piece or laser. The surface of the tooth is cleaned and prepared for the filling. The filling material is placed in the targeted area, where it will be finished and polished to match the appearance of the natural teeth. Dental fillings are placed during a single visit to a dentist's office.
Some patients may require additional support after their filling procedure, such as the placement of a crown. A root canal may be needed for severely damaged or infected teeth.
The dentist will discuss the filling materials and options with each patient before the procedure to determine the best option.
At first you probably will be tempted to not chew directly on the restoration and you may instinctively shy away from very hot or cold foods. Any hot or cold sensitivity should dissipate within a few days as nearby nerves relax. Any chewing sensitivity or thermal sensitivity that persists for more than a few days is a sign that your "bite" is not correct. This will have to be adjusted and you should contact our office to have the tooth adjusted. You should never feel like your tooth is too big or high.Some people experience a sour or metallic taste just after treatment--this is fairly common and no cause for worry. Acids in the mouth can actually react chemically to freshly placed amalgam, but soon wind down. The main concern is any prolonged discomfort or chewing problems. Don't wait it out. Call us right away if you're not feeling quite sure of the filling. Then we can confirm if the tooth needs reshaping or just getting used to.
Inlay & Onlays
Inlays and onlays can often be used in place of traditional dental fillings to treat tooth decay or similar structural damage. Similar to a filling, but designed to strengthen a tooth, an inlay or onlay can be made of porcelain, gold or composite resin. The material is bonded to the damaged area of the tooth. An inlay is typically adhered inside the cusp tips of the tooth, whereas an onlay is used for more substantial reconstructions. An onlay is designed to extend beyond one or more of the cusps of the tooth. They are more conservative than crowns, because you remove less "healthy" tooth structure.
Traditional dental fillings are usually molded into place within the mouth during a dental visit; inlays and onlays are prefabricated in a dental lab before being fitted and bonded to the damaged tooth by a dentist. Traditionally, gold has been the substance of choice for inlays and onlays because of its strength and durability. However, porcelain has become increasingly popular. Not only is it strong, it offers color options to better match the natural shade of your teeth.
Benefits of Inlays and Onlays
Traditional fillings can decrease the strength of a natural tooth. An inlay or onlay, which is bonded directly onto the tooth, can actually increase its strength. Inlays and onlays will often last between 10 and 30 years. When damage to the tooth is not extensive enough to warrant the application of a crown, an inlay or onlay may offer a good alternative.
Inlay and Onlay Procedures
An inlay or onlay procedure requires two separate dental appointments, one to remove decay/damage and create an impression of the tooth, and one to place the inlay or onlay.