Which Dental Filling Material Should You Have?

Would you choose to have amalgam or a tooth coloured filling? Some advice for our Wickford patients.

Dental repairsHowever well we look after our teeth, few of us will be lucky enough to avoid going through life without needing a filling or two due to tooth decay. In the past, this would have been done using an amalgam filling as there were no other options available. More recently, white fillings became available but initially these didn’t offer the same high level of strength as amalgam did and so were not that widely used.

White tooth fillings have come a long way since those days though and advances in dental technology mean that some white fillings now offer a level of strength almost comparable to that of amalgam. Where a large and deep filling is required, and where white fillings may not be suitable, there are other aesthetic alternatives available which we will discuss later.

Why not amalgam fillings?

There are positive things to be said about amalgam fillings. The main one being that they offer a high degree of strength. This should probably come as no surprise given that it is made from a combination of metals. There though, the benefits really end, and, as many patients of the Cygnet Dental Practice are now discovering, there are better alternatives available.

Despite the strength of amalgam fillings, there are a number of disadvantages. These include:

  • It is a dark coloured material which is easily visible when you laugh or even speak, depending on its location in the mouth
  • Over time, the filling may shrink slightly and may leave spaces between the filling and the tooth. If bacteria enter, further decay may follow
  • It sometimes requires more of the natural tooth to be removed in order to prepare the tooth for the filling to be placed
  • Some patients have concerns about the use of mercury in amalgam. Although it has been deemed to be safe, there are still concerns about the mercury leaching into the environment and dentists are being encouraged to phase out its use in some circumstances.

So, what are the alternatives?

As we mentioned earlier, white or tooth coloured fillings are now available at our Wickford dental practice. These offer a high level of strength and are suitable for most types of fillings. There are many advantages of using this material for the patient. The most obvious of which is, of course, that they are far less visible than the darker coloured amalgam material.

They do offer many more advantages though and these include:

  • Tooth coloured fillings, as the name suggests, can be produced to match the shade of the tooth it is being used to fill. This helps to make it almost invisible to most people
  • Less of the affected tooth needs to be replaced as the material bonds well to the natural tooth
  • It doesn’t shrink over time and this therefore means that there is less risk of further tooth decay providing that you brush your teeth and floss correctly
  • As no mercury is used in its production (it is usually made from a combination of glass particles, synthetic resin and a setting agent), this helps to reduce the amount of mercury leaching into the natural environment

Of course, the main reason that most of our patients choose it is that it isn’t visible when you laugh or yawn etc, but the above benefits are worth having too.

Is it suitable for all cavities?

Although natural coloured fillings are far stronger than they used to be, there may be occasions where it is not the most appropriate material to use. A good example of this would be a large and deep cavity in a rear tooth. As these teeth are used for grinding food, they come under a lot of strain and it is possible that a white filling would not stand up to the pressure. In situations like this, we may recommend that our Wickford patients have an inlay or onlay instead.

These are produced in a dental laboratory from impressions that are taken of the tooth once any decay has been removed and the tooth has been prepared. They are usually made from porcelain, a very strong material, although gold can also be used. This is the strongest material of all, but, as you can imagine, is also the most expensive. Once received back at our practice, they are bonded firmly into the prepared cavity.

As you can see, there are now some positive alternatives to amalgam that can be used to fill a tooth and these are available now at the Cygnet Dental Practice. If you would like to find out more about these, you can contact our Wickford dental practice on 01268 733078.