A dental filling is one of the most routine procedures in dentistry. Although silver (amalgam) and gold fillings are still available and sometimes used, the preferred option is tooth-colored materials.
What causes cavities?
Cavities are caused by food acid that erodes the tooth enamel. Many cavities start to develop in the tiny spaces between teeth or in the pits of the back molar teeth, making them impossible for you to detect when you look in the mirror.
A cavity evolves slowly, which is why it’s recommended to have a check-up appointment every six months. That way a cavity can be detected and treated when it’s still very small. This reduces time and cost.
What are the different types of filling?
When you need a filling there are a number of choices available. Different fillings are suited to different conditions and different locations of the cavity. Materials include gold, amalgam, porcelain and composite materials.
- Gold: Gold fillings are strong and can last for up to 15 years but they are also relatively expensive. Best suited to back molar teeth, they are seen as more aesthetically pleasing than silver fillings. A gold filling will require more than one appointment.
- Silver amalgam: These are strong and durable, similar to gold but much less expensive. However, amalgam fillings are more reactive with heat and cold and therefore can expand and contract, which may cause the filled tooth to crack or the filling to become loose. People also tend to dislike their grey appearance.
- Ceramic: Ceramic fillings are often made of porcelain. They are strong, durable and look natural, making them the most popular option. Porcelain fillings are also sometimes called inlays or onlays as they can be placed in or over a large cavity.
- Composite: While not as durable as metal fillings, these are popular because the composite material can be color-matched to your natural tooth enamel. They are placed in layers and sculpted to the shape of the tooth in a single appointment.