We all know that to keep dental decay at bay, we need to brush our teeth at least twice a day, and ideally, floss daily too. However, despite our exhaustive efforts to keep our teeth healthy, decay is a very common problem. It occurs when the acid caused by the interaction between bacteria in our mouths and sugar in the food that we eat erodes the natural enamel of the teeth. This exposes the sensitive inner layers, causing toothache and other unpleasant symptoms. Left untreated, decay can spread and lead to tooth loss.
A dental filling is the most commonly used restorative treatment in the world. They are used to repair areas of decay, which are known as cavities. The decay is drilled out so that the hole that is left is clean and free from bacteria, and then filled using a special material. This prevents any more food debris or bacteria from becoming trapped in the drilled-out space and causing further decay.
Modern dental fillings are available in a range of different materials. These include:
Gold. The most expensive variety, they gold fillings are also the most durable and can last upwards of 20 years.
Porcelain. A very popular option which can be matched to the color of the rest of the tooth. Porcelain is also highly stain resistant.
Silver amalgam, which is comprised of mercury mixed with tin, zinc, silver and copper. These are the most noticeable variety of filling, but also the least expensive.
Composite resin, which is a material made from a combination of plastic and glass. Again, composite resin fillings are tooth-colored and very discreet. However, they can become stained over time and do not last as long as other types of filling material, with a lifespan of between 3 and 10 years.
Despite the fact that silver amalgam has long been considered the go-to material for cavity fillings, there has been some concern over the safety profile of these restorations. This is because they contain small amounts of elemental mercury. Mercury can cause harm to the body when we are exposed to high levels. However, many studies on the safety of amalgam fillings have been performed, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have found that the levels of mercury in silver amalgam fillings are so low, there is no need to limit the use of this solution. Millions of people still have silver amalgam fillings with no ill effects, and it is still commonly used amongst patients who are looking for a budget-friendly way to repair damage caused by dental decay.
If you are experiencing toothache that you think may be caused by dental decay, or if you have a current filling that requires replacing, our experienced dentistry team would be happy to help. Contact us today to obtain more information about dental fillings or to schedule an appointment to have your smile assessed.