Types of fillings

Hopefully you have needed none in a while, but should you have to get one or more fillings done, these are the options to help you make an informed choice.  Generally speaking, your dentist will advise you on how to balance your choice between durability, affordability, and aesthetics.

Both gold and silver amalgam fillings have the best option for durability and longevity. They are said to last ten to fifteen years, and very often they will last even longer. For price point, gold is more expensive than silver amalgam, so you might want to check with your dental insurance plan to determine eligibility, and whether you may have to pay a difference. There is a controversy whether the trace amounts of mercury contained in the amalgemous mixture of silver, tin, zinc, and copper is safely contained as an alloy, or could possibly endanger your health. If that is a serious emotional concern for you, let your dentist explain alternatives. Either gold or silver fillings are well suited for molars, since they are durable and long lasting.

Composite fillings are made of durable ‘plastic’ material. They can be applied in layers, can be shaped easily.  They are tooth colored, and even the hue can be matched to existing tooth color, so they are ideally suited for more visible and especially front teeth. Their life span is about five years. They range in price between silver amalgam and gold fillings. An advantage over gold or silver fillings is that often composite fillings do not require as much of the original tooth material –  beyond the decayed part – to be taken away, and therefore preserve as much of the tooth as possible.

Another alternative might be porcelain, a ceramic filling material that offers the greatest aesthetic value. It is also durable, but more brittle than gold or silver fillings, and costs as much or more.

Glass ionomers are ideally suited for low stress, restorative dentistry also, or as a place holder solution in younger children. They usually last less than five years. With a cost comparative to composites it will be the task of your dentist to suggest which material is ideally suited for you.



Dr. Mead is an educator in the dental field, as well as an experienced family dentist with his practice located in Purcell, Oklahoma.
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