Types of Dental Fillings

Talk about restorative dentistry, and one simply cannot forget to mention dental fillings which are commonly used to fill cavities. The following Buzzle article discusses the different types of dental fillings.
Types of dental fillings
Did You Know?
Larger the size of the filling, shorter will be its durability.
A damaged, decayed tooth or cavity is often corrected with dental fillings. After cleaning the cavity and removing the decayed portion of the tooth, the filling is then attached to the tooth by a bonding process. This is a common approach to restore the normal functioning of the affected tooth. Depending upon the material used for filling, types of teeth fillings are as follows.

Gold Fillings
Gold fillings are very strong, and hence, can successfully withstand wear and tear for quite long. So, once you fill the cavity with gold, the filling does not wear away for at least 15 years. The durability of the filling can be gauged from the fact that it contains gold which has good resistance against chemicals and corrosion, thereby suitable for prolonged dental protection.

Drawbacks: On the flip side, gold fillings are not something that everyone can afford. Although the fillings fit perfectly and are nice to look at, they do not blend with the color of the teeth, and can be easily noticed. Also, at least two dental sessions are necessary to fix the filling properly.

Amalgam Fillings
Although they are referred to as silver fillings, amalgams are made from multiple components. Amalgam fillings are a combination of multiple metals including mercury, silver, copper, and tin. Nearly half of the mixture is made up of mercury, which helps to firmly hold the metals together. It is a metal alloy that can even restrict the growth of bacteria. Hence, it is unlikely that a new cavity may form below the filling. Moreover, they are affordable, yet provide the durability of gold fillings. In most cases, well-placed amalgam fillings lasts for about 12-13 years. Some dentists are of the opinion that amalgam filling when fitted correctly, and complemented with proper oral care, may not require replacement for even up to 50 years!

Drawbacks: These silver-colored amalgam fillings are a total mismatch when compared with the natural color of the teeth. So, one can easily detect the fillings in the mouth. Moreover, fixing these fillings requires more space to fit properly. Hence, a healthy portion of the tooth around the filling site needs to be removed so that the amalgam filling stays in place. Also, filling made from amalgam when exposed to hot or cold drinks tends to contract and expand to a greater extent. This can make the filling as well as the surrounding tooth structure more prone to cracks and fractures. Also, there have been isolated incidents of mercury causing an allergic reaction.

Composite Fillings
Composites are the most sought after dental fillings, thanks to their color which is very similar to that of natural teeth. Also known as white fillings, they essentially consists of synthetic resin combined with plastic and glass particles. As the tooth-colored material cannot be detected, it is a sought-after filling for frontal teeth (incisors).

Drawbacks: The durability of composite fillings is a fry cry from amalgam fillings as the composite material does not last for more than 5 years. Hence, they are not applied on load-bearing areas such as the molars. In addition, as compared to metal fillings, you will have to shell out more money for fixing these tooth-colored fillings. No wonder, people who have fitted both types of fillings, report that the amalgam fillings are miles better, whereas the composite ones require frequent replacement.

Ceramic Fillings
Constructed from porcelain material, these tooth-colored fillings are sturdy and long-lasting. Their natural appearance makes them impossible to differentiate from natural teeth. Unlike other dental fillings that are directly placed into the tooth, porcelain fillings are first synthesized in the laboratory, and then put in place. This approach of indirect dental filling is known as inlays and onlays, and requires two dental visits.

Drawback: Although ceramic fillings are tough and durable, they are expensive. You will have to spend as much as you would on placing gold fillings.

Glass Ionomers
This natural-looking dental material when placed on the affected tooth acts as a source of fluoride, which helps in remineralization. Their ability to hold on to dentin and enamel is noteworthy. It is applied below the gum line and acts as an excellent enamel sealant, which restricts mineral loss, and protects dental health. Its potential to secrete fluoride is especially useful for children who are not particular about brushing their teeth. As glass ionomers act as an excellent dentin bonding agent, they are helpful to attach other dental restorations such as crowns, bridges, and orthodontic brackets.

Drawback: These dental fillings tend to be brittle and so, are not applied on high pressure areas such as the posterior teeth. In addition, durability is a big disappointment as glass ionomers need to replaced after every 3 to 5 years.
Published: February 11, 2014
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My medical dental file states plainly my allergies to most metals. My fillings are all (3) ceramic. A year ago I spent 3 months battling what my Doctor and I thought to be migraine. Odd, as at age 43, I'd never had but one when I was 23.
Neurologist, hospital x-rays, multiple dental visits, more Doctor appts. It took 3 months and a lot of prescribed meds before my Doctor realized I needed a root canal.
I was in my dentist's office as soon as he could fit me in. By now, I'm going on almost 5 months, root canal took another week to finish because of excessive infection.
The next day you would have not believed only hours earlier I thought I was dying slowly.
By October I was acting odd again. Doctor put me on anxiety meds, headaches again, trembling constantly. No sleep days on end. Referred to psychiatrist.
One day after Christmas my root canal filling fell out. I called my dentist, scheduled refilling. That was last week. Suddenly the headaches are worse. Much worse! My husband is wringing his hands by now. I looked in a mirror to see what I could see.
I was in my Doctor's office the next morning. Three confirmations, amalgam filling. Metal.
I called my dentist, pleasantly asking if my file had any mention of allergies. Not only did she iterate the years worth of dentistry performed, she specifically used the term "COMPOSITE" with every filling, including my root canal.
I thanked her graciously and reminded her of my follow up appt next week. I hung up, sat on my couch and cried. I'm on anxiety meds, trembles meds, migraine meds, and I am rotting from the inside out, slow and painfully.
Now what? My insurance is paying for procedures I'm not receiving. I'm paying the balance. Even worse, the expenses have begun eating into our savings, as my husband and I are retired.
What do I do?
- karen s [March 8, 2014]