Over time, bacteria and plaque can cause decay in our teeth. If left untreated, that decay can cause gum disease, bad breath, and other serious health concerns in and outside our mouths. This occurrence is known as a cavity, and your dentist will be able to assess and treat all types of cavities with something called a filling. Different types of dental fillings are also used to repair cracked and broken teeth that may have become worn down over the years.
The tooth is first numbered, and then your dentist will drill into the tooth to remove all signs of decay. After which, the cavity left open from decay removal will be filled. There are many different types of dental fillings, suitable for different situations. There are two types of indirect fillings. The first type, inlays, feature dental work within the cusps of the surface of the tooth. On the other hand, onlays cover more than one cusp, involve much more extensive work, and are often considered partial crowns.
Many practices offer cast gold fillings. While these are expensive, they are very long lasting, and can protect the cavity of a tooth for up to 15 years (sometimes longer). Gold is a very strong metal, and can withstand a lot of chewing and other types of wear and tear. Some people also prefer the look of gold to silver colored metals offered. Keep in mind, these types of fillings are expensive, and may require more than one dental visit to properly fill the cavity. Silver is also widely used because it is long lasting and very strong. On the other hand, silver does not match the natural color of teeth, and a small percentage of patients experience an allergic reaction to this type of metal.
Dentists currently use composites to fill cavities, mostly because they are available in natural tooth-colored varieties. Composites provide a nice bond to the tooth that can support the tooth for long lasting use. Composites can also be used to repair cracked or broken teeth, but some dentists feel that they lack the durability of other types of dental fillings. Chipping can occur with this type, and many cost up to twice as much as other filling alternatives.
Ceramic is broadly used by dentists because they are the most stain-resistant, natural looking, and longest lasting. Keep in mind, this type of filling can cost as much as gold. Glass, or acrylic, may be offered to you if your filling falls below the gum line. This type of filling is also recommended for young children, because it releases fluoride into the gum line that can further strengthen and protect teeth and gums. Acrylic does not last as long as other options, however, and my need to be replaced or repaired after as little as five years.
Discuss your options with your dentist before deciding on a filling. All of the filling options may not be available at your dentist's practice, and some of the options may not be the best fit for you. Choose the most practical and natural looking filling for your cavity to maintain a healthy and beautiful smile.