Patient’s Guide to Dental Filling Materials

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Dental fillings are often the treatment of choice for patients who have teeth that are decayed from cavities or other damage. When you choose to manage your cavities with fillings, your dentist will ask you what type of filling you prefer for your tooth. This short guide explains the types of materials available for dental patients today.

Metal Fillings
Dental fillings made of metal are some of the cheapest and most expensive filling materials for damaged teeth. Whether you choose a budget-friendly amalgam filling or a high-dollar gold filling, your metal filling will last longer than fillings of other types.

Amalgam fillings are made with a mixture of metals. The fillings don’t bond to teeth, but they won’t shrink or pull away from teeth. The amalgam procedure is called a direct filling, since the dentist applies and shapes the material right on the tooth.

Metals in amalgam fillings include:

  • Silver
  • Tin
  • Zinc
  • Copper
  • Mercury

Your dentist can usually complete an amalgam filling in one office visit. The dentist may shape the damaged tooth to accept the filling. Your dentist will numb your mouth to remove the pain.

Amalgam fillings are noticeable, so they’re often used for molars. The fillings last 10 years or more and are extremely durable. Amalgam fillings are also the least expensive filling option for cavities.

Gold Fillings
Gold fillings are on the opposite end of the metal spectrum. Prices for gold inlays and onlays can be 10 times as much as prices for amalgam fillings.

Cast gold fillings have an alloy of gold and other strong metals. Unlike amalgam fillings — which can sometimes tarnish and stain adjacent teeth — gold fillings never corrode. Gold fillings also endure better than any other filling. They can last 15 years or longer.

Gold fillings require at least two office visits. The gold filling is an indirect type of filling. Rather than applying gold directly on a cavity, your dentist makes an impression of the damaged tooth. A temporary filling protects your tooth until the second visit when the dentist installs the gold filling.

Tooth-Colored Fillings
Today’s dental patients can choose fillings made of natural-looking materials that match their tooth color. While gold and amalgam fillings stand out, the newer dental materials can make your damaged and decayed teeth look like healthy teeth again.

The three types of tooth-hued filling materials are:

  1. Ceramic
  2. Composite resin
  3. Glass Ionomer

These all have their benefits and disadvantages.

Ceramic
Ceramic fillings are generally made of porcelain. Ceramic fillings have a sheen and color that looks very natural. The fillings are also stain- and abrasion-resistant, so they keep their good looks for a long time.

Ceramic is brittle, so your dentist may have to remove more of your tooth to make the filling large enough to be durable. Ceramic fillings are more expensive than composite resin fillings, but they can last more than seven years. Your dentist will install your ceramic fillings in two visits, since ceramic fillings are indirect types of dental fillings.

Composite Resin
Composite resin is for direct or indirect fillings. Your dentist can apply the material directly to your damaged tooth or make a composite resin cap or inlay.

Composite resin is made of a mixture of acrylic resin and powdered glass. The material is easy to color so it matches the whiteness of your teeth. Many patients choose composite resin fillings for small cavities and for their front teeth.

Composite resin fillings don’t require the extensive tooth shaping that amalgam and ceramic fillings need to bond correctly. The composite resin easily bonds to teeth, especially when it’s placed in layers for a direct filling.

Some indirect fillings can pull away from teeth, so your dentist may use layers of composite under an inlay. Indirect composite resin fillings are also heat-cured after the dentist places them in your mouth. A special light heats up and hardens the material for a stronger bond and increased durability.

Composite resin fillings are not as tough as other fillings. They last at least five years but may last longer when combined with other filling materials.

Glass Ionomer
Glass ionomer fillings are unique because they actually release protective fluoride in your mouth to help lower your chances of further tooth decay. The glass ionomer filling is composed of acrylic and glass but is less natural-looking than composite resin or ceramic fillings.

Glass ionomer fillings are not as strong as other fillings, but the material receives strength when mixed with other fillings including resin. Expect a glass ionomer filling to last at least five years. The material is also used for dental glue and as a liner for other fillers.

Glass ionomer fillings often take more time in the dental chair than other fillings, since the dentist applies and cures the material in layers. The cost of glass ionomer fillings is around the same as that of composite resin fillings, but the cost is generally less than the cost of ceramic fillings.

Get answers to all of your questions about dental fillings by contacting Apollo Dental Center today. We offer amalgam and composite resin fillings for kids and adults in Rochester, Minnesota.

Apollo Dental Center

3000 43rd Street NW
Rochester, MN 55901

Office Hours

Monday - 8:00 am - 7:00 pm
Tuesday - Thursday - 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Friday - 7:00 am - 2:00 pm
Telephone Numbers: (507) 287-8320
Toll Free: (866) 915-8320
General Dentistry: (507) 287-8320
Pediatrics: (507) 424-6161
Accounting Office: (507) 424-6164
Fax: (507) 281-8757