Fillings are provided when a tooth needs to be repaired. The most common cause for a tooth to require a filling is if the tooth is decayed. A tooth can become decayed due to inadequate brushing or a high intake of sugary drinks or snacks. A tooth may also need a filling if it has chipped, fractured or worn.
There are a number of different fillings available. The type of filling material that is used is dependent upon the size of the cavity, the position in the mouth and also cost factors may be taken into consideration.
Amalgam fillings are silver coloured. They are made by combining mercury and a silver alloy (50% mercury, 35% silver, 15% tin, copper and other metals). Amalgam is long lasting and hard wearing and has been used in fillings for at least 150 years. It is economical to use and it is not unusual for an amalgam filling to last 15 to 20 years.
This kind of filling is normally used on the back ‘chewing’ teeth due to its durability.
Are there risks to amalgam fillings?
The mercury in dental amalgam is not poisonous once it is combined with the other materials in the filling. Its chemical nature changes so that it is harmless.
Research into the safety of dental amalgam has been carried out for over 100 years. So far, no reputable ‘controlled’ studies have found a connection between amalgam fillings and any medical problem.
Composite fillings are tooth coloured fillings and are made from powdered glass quartz, silica or other ceramic particles added to a resin base. After the tooth is prepared, the filling is bonded onto the area and a light shone onto it to set it. The dentist will choose a shade to match your own teeth, although over time staining can happen.
Although, this option is more expensive than the Amalgam fillings it is becoming a more and more popular choice.
Composite fillings are usually placed on the front teeth where aesthetics of a filling is paramount, they can also, in some cases be placed on the back ‘chewing’ teeth.
Glass Ionomer Filling
Glass ionomer fillings are made from acrylic and a component of glass and they form a chemical link with the tooth. They may also release fluoride, which helps to prevent further tooth decay. Little preparation is needed as the filling bonds directly to the tooth. Glass ionomer aren’t as strong as amalgam or composite fillings they provide insufficient strength to bear chewing force in long term and have a relatively low wear resistance but can be useful to restore the flat surfaces. Glass ionomer is often use on baby teeth for children as there is minimal preparation required.
Your dentist will help you to decide which filling is the best option for you. Your dentist will also let you know an estimate of costs and for NHS patients what is available to you under these arrangements, you can always opt to pay for treatment if it is not (for example NHS arrangements usually only allow amalgam fillings on back teeth, if suitable you may wish to opt for a composite filling at an additionally private cost)