When patients come to our office for help with tooth decay, one of the most common procedures our Santa Monica dentist does is placing or replacing dental fillings. At these appointments, we spend time with our patients to explain the different types of fillings available today. With advances in medicine, there are different options, from old-fashioned gold and amalgam fillings, to modern and natural looking porcelain and composite fillings.
What are dental fillings?
If you have cavities in your teeth, or your teeth are chipped, broken or worn down, our office can put in fillings to fix your teeth. A dental filling, or tooth filling, is a restorative material that a dentist places on your tooth to replace some of the tooth’s missing structure.
What types of dental fillings exist?
There are various types of dental fillings on the market today. Here’s an overview from Colgate.
- Gold fillings are made to order in a laboratory and then cemented into place. Gold inlays are well tolerated by gum tissues, and may last more than 20 years. For these reasons, many authorities consider gold the best filling material. However, it is often the most expensive choice and requires multiple visits.
- Amalgam (silver) fillings are resistant to wear and relatively inexpensive. However, due to their dark color, they are more noticeable than porcelain or composite restorations and are not usually used in very visible areas, such as front teeth.
- Composite (plastic) resins are matched to be the same color as your teeth and therefore used where a natural appearance is desired. The ingredients are mixed and placed directly into the cavity, where they harden. Composites may not be the ideal material for large fillings as they may chip or wear over time. They can also become stained from coffee, tea or tobacco, and do not last as long as other types of fillings generally from three to 10 years.
- Porcelain fillings are called inlays or onlays and are produced to order in a lab and then bonded to the tooth. They can be matched to the color of the tooth and resist staining. A porcelain restoration generally covers most of the tooth. Their cost is similar to gold.
Today, we recommend porcelain fillings above any other at our Santa Monica dentist office. Not only do these fillings look natural, with no one being able to tell that your teeth have been altered in any way, porcelain does not contain toxic ingredients. Silver fillings were found to contain high levels of mercury, which was released into the mouth, and could cause possible harm to a patient’s health, such as “brain damage and neurological problems, especially for children and the unborn babies of pregnant women,” according to ToxicTeeth.org.
What is involved in getting dental fillings?
Dental fillings are usually done in one appointment. A patient will come in and we will provide a consultation, and determine if fillings are the best option. If teeth are severely broken down, we may recommend tooth crowns or bridges, instead.
To put in a filling, dentists will first administer anesthetic to the area, remove any old tooth decay with a drill or laser, and then clean the area. Then, that area will be filled with the material chosen, like porcelain, to restore the tooth’s structure and fill in any holes or gaps. If you will get porcelain, or tooth colored fillings, these will be applied in layers, with a special light that will harden the material to be used after the application of each layer. After all the steps have been completed, the dentist will polish the area, and you will be all set.
For more information about getting dental fillings in Santa Monica, contact Hale & Hale, DDS.