A filling is something that most people will have undergone at some point in their lives. They are a form of treatment for tooth decay or to restore a damaged tooth. The most popular type of filling is the silver amalgam filling.
There is the standard filling and then there are cosmetic fillings which are performed for aesthetic reasons. These are known as onlays and inlays.
Find out more about these in Inlays & Onlays.
Another type of filling is the direct white filling which is also discussed separately.
What is cosmetic filling
A filling is the name of a dental procedure in which a material such as silver amalgam or a composite (white) filling is used to treat a decayed tooth. This material is inserted into the tooth where it then prevents the further spread of decay or repairs any damage.
This treatment stops the decay from spreading into the root where it will cause a serious infection, e.g. an abscess. This also removes the need for a tooth extraction.
The silver amalgam filling is the traditional type of filling which is composed of various metals such as copper, tin and mercury. This combination helps to retain the normal function of the tooth.
The composite white filling is a synthetic combination of acrylic resin and glass which has a white color thereby enabling it to match the color of the tooth. This is also chosen for aesthetic reasons as many people prefer to have fillings which match the rest of their teeth rather than the distinctive silver filling.
Advantages of Cosmetic fillings
The main advantage of silver amalgam fillings is their durability. These fillings can last for more than 10 years or more compared to other types of fillings.
Composite white fillings have a natural colour which is similar to the colour of your natural teeth and so blends it well with them. Plus there have been issues raised about the safety of silver amalgam fillings due to their mercury content which has prompted some people to switch to composite fillings instead.
In regard to inlays and onlays: these fillings are less extensive than a normal filling, are easy to care for and long lasting.
Disadvantages of Cosmetic fillings
Silver amalgam fillings have attracted some negative press commentary which is related to their use of mercury. There have been reports of people developing a health problem which is linked to mercury poisoning although the risk is considered very small.
The alternative is to choose a composite white filling or inlays and onlays.
Composite white fillings come with a range of benefits but they have their disadvantages as well. These are discussed further in the direct white fillings section.
How is a filling performed?
For both the silver amalgam and composite white fillings the procedure involves the drilling of a small hole within the affected tooth which is then packed with the filling.
The only difference is that the dentist will give the composite filling a final polish to ensure that it has that clean, white look and fits in with the rest of your teeth.
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