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Types of Dental Fillings

A dental filling is a dental restoration used to replace deteriorated tooth structure. There are a number of different types of dental fillings with which patients should be familiar.

The Different Types of Dental Fillings

  1. The first type of dental filling is known as an amalgam. Dental amalgams are fashioned from mercury, with an admixture of metals such as copper, tin, and silver. This composition accounts for their more popular name: silver fillings. Amalgams are the original type of dental filling, having been in use for well over a century and in recent years have been primarily used as dental fillings for the back teeth. They are also among the least expensive and most durable dental fillings.
  2. A second type of dental filling is made from composite meld of acrylic resin and quartz particles. Inlays and veneers may also be made from composite. One advantage of this type of dental filling is that composite can be shaded and colored so as to blend seamlessly with the tooth. While less durable than dental amalgams, fillings made from composite are nevertheless reasonably strong and do not corrode.
  3. Glass ionomers are a third type of dental filling. Glass ionomer is a polyelectrolyte cement. It is most often employed to fill cavities found on the roots of the teeth and is usually reserved for smaller fillings that will not be subject to strong pressure from chewing. Like dental fillings made from composite, fillings made from glass ionomer blend in with the color of the tooth, giving them a natural appearance. They also sometimes contain fluoride which can aid in warding off tooth decay. Glass ionomer dental fillings do cost more than amalgams, however, and their texture may coarsen with age, making them vulnerable to plaque accumulations.
  4. A fourth type of dental filing is made from resin ionomer, which is a mixture of glass filler with acrylic resins and acids. Resin ionomer dental fillings tend to be reserved for baby teeth and non-chewing tooth surfaces. They can be more durable than glass ionomer fillings, but do not last as long as either amalgams or dental fillings made from composite.
  5. Yet another type of dental filling is comprised of ceramic or porcelain, materials also used in crowns and veneers. These fillings have a texture and color very similar to the enamel of the teeth and, if well fitted, are quite durable. Dental fillings made from ceramic or porcelain are, however, among the more expensive fillings, and are more liable to break under biting pressure than other types of dental fillings.
  6. The last type of dental filling is a gold alloy filling. Gold alloys are comprised of metals including gold and copper, and are among the most durable dental fillings. Generally speaking, however, gold alloys are the most expensive dental fillings and their coloring cannot be modified to make it blend with the tooth.

Dental Fillings and the Patient

Each of the different types of dental fillings has advantages and disadvantages which the individual patient must examine. Those considering which type of dental filling best suits them should consult with their dentist before reaching a final conclusion.

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