Teeth fillings are the most common type of dental restorations, with millions being placed every single year. Fillings are used to treat areas of dental decay, in which plaque that is allowed to form on the teeth releases acids that eat away at the enamel, causing irreversible damage to the tooth. While the tooth will not be able to repair itself, it is possible to treat the decay and prevent any further damage to the tooth. A filling is the easiest and often the most effective treatment to do this.
When you suffer from an area of dental decay, your dentist will treat the area by removing the decay. This is done by drilling into the tooth. The hole that is left is free from decay but needs to be filled to prevent bacteria and food debris from becoming trapped inside and causing further decay or infection to form. A filling is used to seal the space. Depending on which type of filling you choose, you may be able to have it placed immediately or it may be necessary to have a bespoke filling created for you.
The procedure to get a filling is usually performed using a local anesthetic, which numbs the area so that the decay can be removed before the filling is placed. If you are particularly anxious, it may be possible for you to have some degree of sedation to keep you calm and comfortable during your treatment.
Teeth fillings small bits of a material that are used to quite literally fill the holes that have been left in teeth after areas of decay have been removed. Fillings can be made from several different materials, including:
Silver amalgam. The most common and least expensive filling material, it is a combination of mercury, tin, zinc, silver, and copper. These filings are dark grey in color. However, over time they can start to discolor the rest of the tooth too.
Gold. Unsurprisingly, the most expensive option, gold fillings are also the most durable and long-lasting, often being successfully maintained for several decades or more.
Porcelain. Porcelain can be glazed to match the color of your natural teeth, which makes them a very popular choice for people who would like a very discreet solution. It is also very stain resistant, making it simple to maintain the natural appearance of the tooth.
Composite resin. These fillings are 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 silver amalgam being the most common and widely available material for cavity fillings, there has been some concern raised over the safety of these restorations. The reason for this is because they contain small amounts of elemental mercury. Mercury is proven to be harmful in high doses. However, many studies on the safety of amalgam fillings have been performed and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found that the levels of mercury in silver amalgam fillings are low enough not to be a cause for concern. Millions of people still have silver amalgam fillings with no side effects, and it is still the most popular choice among patients who are looking for a cost-effective way to repair the damage caused by dental decay.
If you have any questions about teeth fillings, or if you would like to schedule an appointment to discuss this treatment, please contact our Atlanta, GA dental center today.