Traditional dental restoratives, or fillings, are usually made of so-called “silver” amalgam. Because they actually contain mercury, their use is becoming much more restricted around the world. This traditional dental material is still considered useful by some dentists for restored teeth which have to endure results from chewing, often in the back of the mouth.
Ceramic and plastic compounds in newer types of fillings mimic the appearance of natural teeth. These compounds, called composite resins, are usually applied to the front teeth for a more natural appearance. Fillings can also be used on the back teeth depending on location and extent of the tooth decay.
Which Fillings Should I Have?
Several factors influence the performance, durability, longevity and expense of dental restorations, including:
- Filling material components
- Area of remaining tooth structure
- Placing of the filling
- Tooth’s chewing load
- Visits needed to prepare and adjust the restored tooth
Your doctor will discuss all of your fillings options with you and help you choose the best filling for your specific case.
There are two types of fillings:
- Direct fillings: Fillings placed into a prepared cavity. They include silver amalgam, glass ionomers, resin ionomers, and composite (resin) fillings. The dentist prepares the tooth, places the filling, and adjusts it all in one appointment.
- Indirect fillings: Typically require two or more visits. These fillings include inlays, onlays, and veneers. Those veneers are made with gold, base metal alloys, ceramics, or composites. They are used when a tooth has too much damage to support a filling but not enough to necessitate a crown. Your dentist prepares the tooth then makes an impression of the area to be restored during your first visit. Then the dentist creates a temporary covering over the tooth. That tooth impression is sent to the dental lab which makes a dental restoration. At your next visit, the dentist cements the restoration into the prepared cavity.