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The Pros and Cons of 3 Dental Filling Options
A dental filling is the first line of defense when it comes to fighting tooth decay and the cavities it causes. Teeth are constantly exposed to things that can damage them, like the acids created by bacteria that live in the mouth. These microorganisms feast on food particles that are leftover in the mouth after meals and they excrete acids.
The result of teeth being exposed to acids is the outer layer (called enamel) wearing off and small holes called cavities developing on teeth surfaces. These holes will continue to expand if left untreated until they reach the pulp chamber, where the blood vessels and the nerve are housed. Infection often follows once the contents of the pulp chamber are exposed to oral bacteria.
That is where fillings come in. These are one of the most affordable treatments performed by dentists and they can stop cavities from expanding.
The 3 different types of dental fillings
A dental filling can be made from a variety of materials and each comes with its advantages and disadvantages. Let us take a look at the most commonly used materials fillings can be made from and their properties:
1. Silver amalgam
This has traditionally been the most commonly used type of filling. These fillings are made from a combination of materials like copper, silver, metal alloys and mercury. The mercury usually makes up about 50% of the material used.
- One of the most affordable ways to fight tooth decay
- Helps to restore the function of teeth and keeps tooth decay contained
- Lasts up to 10 years
- Can handle most of the bite forces created when chewing
- Mercury is now known to be toxic
- These filling are prone to discoloration
- Has a greyish color that sticks out
- Teeth are more vulnerable to cracks when repaired with silver amalgam fillings
- Some patients are allergic to mercury
2. Composite resins
These are a more modern approach to dealing with cavities. It involves using composites, which are mixtures of plastics and glass, to fill up the holes created by tooth decay. The composite used can be color-matched to the patient's teeth, making it difficult to tell that they have had teeth restored with composites.
- Teeth that have been repaired with composites blend in with real teeth
- Can be used to improve a tooth's appearance
- Unlike mercury, composites are not toxic
- Costs more than silver amalgam
- Not as durable as silver amalgam fillings
- Composites make teeth more susceptible to staining
This is the most expensive way to fill a cavity. The material used is typically a combination of gold and other metals. Gold fillings can be used for inlays and onlays and they restore the natural function of teeth.
- Lasts up to 15 years
- Can handle extreme bite forces and pressure
- Aesthetically pleasing to some
- The least affordable way to treat tooth decay
- Combining gold fillings with amalgam fillings can lead to galvanic shock
- Requires multiple trips to the dentist
Do you currently have a cavity?
Contact our Alpharetta clinic to learn more about the pros and cons of each type of dental filling.
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