The process of removing decayed tooth material and replacing it with artificial material, called a dental filling, has been a successful way to fight against cavities for thousands of years. A cavity typically occurs when acid wears away the tooth structure and creates a hole in the enamel. Cavities are often painful, but they can sometimes go unnoticed for months before symptoms arise.
It is essential to treat tooth decay as quickly as possible. When left alone, cavities often progress and can lead to many complications, including:
- Weakened tooth structure
- Gum disease
- The spread of decay to other teeth
- Tooth loss
In these situations, much more extensive dental work will likely be needed. However, a routine dental filling is often all that is required to treat most cavities. Over time, there have been many evolutions in the technology and materials used for dental fillings, but to this day, they remain a common practice and efficient way of treating tooth decay.
Commonly used dental fillings
Presently, you have three main options to consider for your dental filling: gold, amalgam, and tooth-colored. Each type has benefits and drawbacks to think about regarding its color, cost, and durability, so consult your dentist to decide which is right for you.
Gold fillings have been around for hundreds of years and for good reason. Gold is a very durable metal, so gold fillings hold up well under long-term use. These filings are also one of the more expensive options available since gold is a precious metal and comprises over 50% of most gold fillings. Color is something to consider with gold fillings too. The highly visible coloration is a turn-off for some and a desirable quality for others. Some people see it as an advantageous status symbol and others as a noticeable sign that they have imperfect teeth.
Amalgams are also called silver fillings because they are dark silver in color. Dental amalgams are metallic fillings made from a combination of mercury and other metals such as silver, tin, zinc, and copper. Many people express concern about the mercury in the filling, but there is no conclusive evidence that it is unsafe for the majority of people. Pregnant women, nursing women, people allergic to mercury, and people with certain neurological disorders may want to choose another filling option though. An amalgam dental filling is still often a good option. They are quite strong and fairly inexpensive in comparison to other options. However, a significant number of people find the dark coloring unpleasant.
There are three main options for tooth-colored filling materials; composite resin, ceramic, and glass ionomer. The one great advantage these fillings have is that they are made to blend in with the tooth, so they are not easily detected by the naked eye. They range in toughness and cost as well. Ceramics are very tough but quite costly. Glass ionomer is fairly fragile and needs to be replaced around every five years but is usually less costly overall. Composite resin fillings sit in the middle of the other two in both their stamina and price. Glass ionomer fillings also have a unique advantage in that they are designed to be able to gradually release fluoride which helps strengthen teeth and prevent future cavities. Dentists often choose a glass dental filling for children because of this quality.
It is important to treat cavities as soon as possible to prevent unnecessary oral health problems. Routine visits to a dentist help ensure that tooth decay is caught in the early stages and easily treated with a filling. All three dental filling options work well to fill in the space left behind by tooth decay removal and have their advantages and disadvantages.
To choose which option is the one for you, there are many factors to consider, including appearance, location of the filling, budget, age of the patient, and more. You should carefully discuss them all with your dentist beforehand. A professional can offer insight into which selection may be appropriate for your individual situation.
If you suspect that you may have tooth decay and are developing a cavity, do not hesitate to seek professional dental care right away. Waiting too long will likely make matters worse. Treating a cavity with a dental filling is a routine procedure that can significantly improve your dental health, regardless of which type of material you choose.
Request an appointment here or call Dallas Laser Dentistry at 469 838 5292 for an appointment in our Dallas office.