The best thing you can do for your teeth is to prevent tooth decay through brushing and flossing. But should tooth decay develop, your dentist has a range of options to restore your teeth’s shape and function.
Fillings may be required if tooth structure has been lost due to decay or trauma. During a regular check-up, your dentist will examine your teeth for these defects. Using X-rays to pinpoint the location and extent of the decay, the dentist will then decide on the best method to restore the integrity of your tooth, which may include fillings.
A variety of materials can be used for a filling, all of which have unique properties and advantages. When determining the type of material to be used in a filling, dentists consider several factors such as the type of tooth, the strength requirements, and the way your teeth bite together. Your dentist will advise you what material is appropriate for your situation.
Amalgam is a durable material but requires more of the tooth to be removed, and it can blacken with age. While amalgam is increasingly giving way to tooth-coloured filling materials such as resin, it is still in use. It is safe, and you do not need to replace your amalgam fillings just for the sake of it.
Composite resin is a commonly used white or tooth-coloured filling material. It can be “glued” to the surface of the tooth. The filling colour can closely match the tooth colour, making the filling almost invisible. On the other hand, the composite resin material is more difficult to use, which makes this type of restoration a bit more expensive than the restoration with amalgam.
Glass-Ionomer Cement (GIC) is also tooth coloured. Although it is not as durable and strong as composite resin, it bonds well to the tooth and has some decay-preventing properties. Glass-ionomer cement is often used to fill the areas of the tooth without much biting force and to fill baby teeth.
Gold & porcelain
Gold fillings tend to be the most durable over the long term, while ceramic fillings are both strong and can be matched to your tooth colour to produce a very long lasting and aesthetically pleasing filling. Both gold and porcelain fillings take longer to prepare and manufacture, requiring more appointments and increasing the cost.
Short-term (temporary) fillings may be used when:
- you need multiple appointments to repair a tooth,
- you don’t have enough time to complete the treatment in one visit,
- you have an emergency treatment.
For a few days following treatment, your tooth may feel sensitive to pressure, cold air, sweet foods, or changes in temperature. If this persists, return to your dentist so the cause can be investigated.
When good fillings go bad
Nothing lasts forever. Constant wear and tear can cause fillings to wear, chip, or crack, opening the seal between the tooth and the filling and allowing food particles and decay-causing bacteria to enter. This is why it’s important to visit your dentist regularly to detect and treat the problem early.