If you have a cavity or other tooth damage, you may need a dental filling to restore your tooth. Today, the dentists at Lake of the Woods Dental explain reasons you'd need a tooth filling and what your options are for filling types.
What are dental fillings?
Dental fillings are restorations are used to restore the structure, function, and appearance of a tooth that's been damaged or decayed.
Why are dental fillings used?
Tooth fillings are most often used to fill a cavity— a small hole that forms in your tooth due to decay. Fillings may also be used if you have a cracked or damaged tooth to prevent the crack from worsening.
They help restore functionality to your tooth and in some circumstances, dental fillings can be used to make cosmetic improvements to your smile.
What are some signs I may need a dental filling?
While you should see a dentist to confirm whether you need a filling, here are some signs that you may have a cavity or other situation that requires a filling. If you experience any of these, schedule an appointment with your dentist:
- You feel a sharp or throbbing pain in your tooth.
- When you examine your teeth, you see a hole or dark spot.
- Your tooth is broken or chipped.
- Your tooth feels rough to the touch.
- Food keeps getting stuck between certain teeth.
- An existing tooth filling has broken or cracked.
- You've lost a tooth filling and need a replacement.
What are dental fillings made of?
Dental fillings can be made of a number of materials, from amalgam and composite to porcelain and gold. While all of these material are safe and long-lasting, they each have their own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to repairing a cavity or crack. Here, our dentists provide advice on how to make the right dental choice for you.
Amalgam Fillings for Convenience and Practicality
Amalgam fillings are sometimes called "silver" fillings. They typically are the least expensive type of filling, are long-lasting, and only require one appointment to put in. Amalgam fillings are made of metals such as mercury, silver, copper and tin.
The disadvantage of amalgam fillings is that they don't match your natural tooth colour so they typically cannot be used for visible teeth. Some patients also have concerns about the use of mercury in the fillings. However, as stated by the Canadian Dental Association, studies have shown that amalgam fillings do not cause illness.
Porcelain Fillings for Strength & Appearance
Also called inlays and onlays, porcelain fillings are brittle, hard, and made in combination with metal. Made in a dental lab and sent back to your dentist to be put in, these strong, tooth-coloured dental restorations are typically used on molars as they are more durable and longer-lasting than a regular dental filling.
You’ll usually need to attend two dental appointments to first have an impression taking of the area needing to be filled and then to have the actual filling put in.
Composite Fillings for a Natural Look & Feel
Because they are very similar in colour to natural teeth, composite fillings tend to blend in well with the surrounding teeth.
They look and feel natural, and are popular with patients who are concerned with how amalgam (grey) fillings may appear on teeth that are visible when they smile.
Dentists like composites because they are easy to sculpt and shape onto a tooth, and bond naturally to a tooth. This means your dentist won’t need to remove as much existing enamel when preparing the tooth.
Your dentist will remove tooth decay and add bonding material to the inside of the hole so the filling can be placed. Composite resin is then layered in the hole.
A curing light is used to harden each layer. When the last layer of resin has hardened, the filling will be carefully shaped to match your natural teeth.
Gold Fillings for Durability
Cast gold fillings are made using a model of your tooth. Created from a mix of gold combined with other materials such as copper and silver, a cast gold filling is created in a dental lab and sent back to your dentist.
It will then be cemented in place inside your mouth. Though this type of filling is considered the most durable (typically lasting 20 years or more) it is also the most costly. You'll also require at least two dental appointments to have it placed.