What are Dental Fillings?
Traditional dental fillings (restoratives) include gold, porcelain, and composite/silver amalgam. The strength and durability of traditional dental materials continue to make them useful for situations where restored teeth must withstand extreme forces that result from chewing, such as in the back of the mouth.
Newer dental fillings include ceramic and plastic compounds that mimic the appearance of natural teeth. These compounds, often called composite resins, are usually used on the front teeth where a natural appearance is important. They can be used on the back teeth as well depending on the location and extent of the tooth decay.
What’s Right for Me?
Several factors influence the performance, durability, longevity and expense of dental restorations:
- The components used in the filling material
- The amount of tooth structure remaining
- Where and how the filling is placed
- The chewing load that the tooth will have to bear
- The length and number of visits needed to prepare and adjust the restored tooth
Types of Dental Fillings
The ultimate decision about what to use is best determined in consultation with your doctor. Before your treatment begins, discuss the options with your doctor. To help you prepare for this discussion it is helpful to understand the two basic types of dental fillings: indirect and direct.
Indirect fillings generally require two or more visits. They include porcelain on-lays, veneers, crowns and bridges fabricated with gold-platinum-palladium alloys, base metal alloys, ceramics or composites. During the first visit, the dentist prepares the tooth and makes an impression of the area to be restored. The dentist then places a temporary covering over the prepared tooth. The impression is sent to a dental laboratory which creates the dental restoration. At the next appointment, the dentist fits and cements the restoration into the prepared cavity and adjusts it as needed.
Direct fillings are fillings placed immediately into a prepared cavity in a single visit. They include glass ionomers, resin ionomers, and composite (resin) fillings and silver amalgam. The dentist prepares the tooth, places the filling, and adjusts it during one appointment.