Nobody ever wants to hear Dr. McOmie say “You have a cavity”. Sometimes it happens, most everyone has at least one filling even the luckiest of people. Sometimes needing a filling is not your fault it could be from a developmental defect in the tooth or a chip, crack or broken tooth. Honestly, we all probably could floss a little better, right? Flossing does help prevent cavities in between teeth. Once it is established that a filling is needed, then Dr. McOmie will give you the options of what to fill it with! Not all fillings are the same, and there are many things to fill teeth with. Many people are surprised to know this; let’s take a closer look at these options. There are advantages and disadvantages to each and every kind of filling material.
Different Types Of Teeth Fillings
1. Amalgam Fillings
Amalgam fillings are what you might think of as “silver” dental fillings, though they’re actually composed of a mixture of tin, copper, silver, and mercury. They have been used for over 150 years! The reason dentists have been using them for so long is that they are strong and long-lasting, and they are also the least expensive option. However, they’re very noticeable and tend to darken the tooth they are placed in over time, so if you want something that blends in, amalgam fillings probably aren’t the ones you want.
Many people call these fillings “mercury fillings”. You can search online and see there are many who say they cause neurologic issues and diseases of all kinds. Here at McOmie Family Dentistry, we did these fillings for about 6 months back in 1998. At that time we stopped doing these fillings because the Dr’s McOmie felt that the material had become outdated. 20 years later we look at this material as historic. Although about 60 percent of dental offices in Chattanooga still use this material. There are materials that are as good with better color and seem to be more bio-compatible.
It is interesting to note that all the Scandinavian countries and many European countries have banned amalgam fillings. While in the US we still have the material available there is a new law phasing in that makes dental offices put devices on our sewer lines to capture the amalgam filling material we take out of people teeth. This material has to disposed of by a biohazard/ hazmat disposal service. So it is interesting to note that we can put amalgam in a persons mouth but we can’t put amalgam down the drain. Very curious seems a mixed message.
Amalgam fillings have another downside. They just fill a hole, they are not bonded to the tooth, and they actually weaken the tooth.
2. Composite Fillings These Can Be Hard To See
Composite dental fillings are made of acrylic resin and powdered glass. These fillings are color matched to your teeth, which is part of what makes them so popular. These are now the “gold standard” of dental fillings. These are great fillings, and they are our GO TO for filling teeth. We are seeing this filling material go into its second decade of service and holding up. These fillings really camouflage into the tooth and are hard to see.
When someone says, they have or want bonding that is in reference to using these composite fillings to stick to the sides of teeth. There is a lot to do with bonding of teeth and it really makes a wonderful restorative material.
We could write an entire blog post just on composite fillings. There are many different materials to use in this category. Things like anterior, posterior, flowable, packable, hybrid and so on. You can count on Dr. Mark and Dr. Ellen McOmie to use the best materials on the market at all times.
Another great aspect of these fillings is that they are “bonded” into the tooth. These tooth colored materials are superior to gold, amalgam, and ceramic restorations in that they have a strong bond to the tooth. Which means composite tooth colored fillings actually help hold the tooth together, making the tooth stronger!
3. Gold Fillings The Bling
Gold fillings are made of gold! They are very expensive and most people these days don’t want to see gold in their mouths. These fillings can be done two ways; first, they can be cast gold using the lost wax technique which was seen in the ancient Mayan culture and is still used today. This technique requires two visits one to prep the tooth and temporize the tooth. Then a second visit to seat the filling or inlay. The second type of gold filling is called a gold foil filling. A gold foil filling is a technique that stopped being used widely in the 1960’s. The dentist would take the gold leaf and put little sheets of gold into the cavity then hit a tiny metal instrument with a small hammer to make the gold conform the filling. It sounds like fun doesn’t it?
Dr. McOmie says gold fillings are wonderful and can last a lifetime. Dr. McOmie talks about WWII vets who had gold fillings done at boot camp, and they are still in their mouths today. Now that is some longevity. They are about 8 times more expensive than tooth-colored composite fillings and are the color gold. So we don’t see many people choosing these anymore.
4. Ceramic Fillings Beautiful, Expensive, fragile
Ceramic fillings are very pretty. They are done with what is called the indirect technique, and it is similar to the lost wax technique talked about above with gold fillings. These fillings take two visits to complete, and they do look a little better than white composite fillings. The drawbacks of ceramic fillings are that they are more brittle than composite fillings, and they are also nearly as expensive as gold. They do not bond to the tooth the same way composite fillings do. This type of filling material is pretty rare, the cost and the weakening of the tooth don’t make them very popular.
5. Glass Ionomer Fillings Big Claims
The final type of filling is resin or glass ionomer fillings. These are made of acrylic and fluoroaluminosilicate, a component of glass. They are typically used as cement for inlay fillings, for fillings in the front teeth, and for fillings when the decay extends into the root of the tooth. They are also used on baby teeth. Weaker than composite resin, glass ionomer fillings might only last around five years, and they don’t match the color of teeth as closely. They do not do last very long on chewing surfaces, and they wear out quickly. They do however stick to teeth very well and actually seal at the filling margin great. Some of these companies that make this type of filling are really making unfounded claims. Such as they heal tooth, remineralize decay, grow a new tooth, however, none of these claims are backed up with real science.
The fillings we do work and will last! Fillings these days we feel are cosmetic dentistry, and we try to make them so you can’t see where they are. Dr. McOmie is very good at making his work disappear in your mouth, so you don’t have to see it.
Bring Your Questions To The Experts!
Still have questions about the different types of fillings? Just ask us! Give us a call McOmie Family Dentistry 423-899-1112. You should also come see us if you’ve noticed any problems with existing fillings, such as damage or a separation between the filling and the tooth. A loose or damaged filling could lead to worse complications for the tooth, so don’t wait to schedule your appointment!