Dental Fillings & Composites
What exactly is a Dental Filling?
Well, to treat a cavity, Dr. Sato will remove the decayed portion of the tooth and then "fill" the area on the tooth where the decayed material once lived. Fillings are also used to repair cracked or broken teeth and teeth that have been worn down from misuse (such as from nail-biting or tooth grinding).
To maintain your fillings, you should follow good oral hygiene practices – visiting Dr. Sato regularly for cleanings, brushing with a fluoride-containing toothpaste, and flossing at least once daily. If our staff suspects that a filling might be cracked or is "leaking" (when the sides of the filling don't fit tightly against the tooth – this allows debris and saliva to seep down between the filling and the tooth, which can lead to decay), we will take X-rays to assess the situation. If your tooth is extremely sensitive, if you feel a sharp edge, if you notice a crack in the filling, or if a piece of the filling is missing, call our office for an appointment.
types of fillings
Today, several dental filling materials are available. Teeth can be filled with gold; porcelain; silver amalgam (which consists of mercury mixed with silver, tin, zinc, and copper); or tooth-colored, plastic and glass materials called composite resin fillings. The location and extent of the decay, cost of filling material, patients' insurance coverage, and Dr. Sato's recommendation assist in determining the type of filling that will best address your needs.
Every dental material used to rebuild teeth has advantages and disadvantages. Dental amalgam or silver fillings have been around for over 150 years. Amalgam is composed of silver, tin, copper, mercury and zinc. Amalgam fillings are relatively inexpensive, durable and time-tested. On the flip side, they are considered unaesthetic because they blacken over time and can give teeth a gray appearance, and they do not strengthen the tooth. Some people worry about the potential for mercury in dental amalgam to leak out and cause a wide variety of ailments, but research does not bear this fear out. Composite resin, or white, fillings have been around for about two decades.
Composite fillings are composed of an organic polymer known as bisphenol-A-glycidyl methacrylate (BIS-GMA), and inorganic particles such as quartz, borosilicate glass and lithium aluminum silicate. They have the advantage of requiring a more conservative tooth preparation (less drilling required); can have a strengthening effect on the tooth; and are very aesthetic, virtually blending in with the tooth. Composite fillings are the material of choice for repairing the front teeth. On the down side, they are more technique-sensitive for the dentist to place, and are highly susceptible to decay in the future if placed improperly. They usually cost more than an amalgam. Despite this research composite fillings are considered safe, and like the other dental filling materials, they are approved by the American Dental Association. Porcelain is sometimes used for dental fillings called inlays. Porcelain is a non-crystalline glass composed of silicon and oxygen. It has the advantage of being highly aesthetic, and is the restoration of choice for people who place the highest value in the appearance of their teeth. Porcelain has the disadvantage of being brittle and, therefore, susceptible to breakage. It is also even more technique-sensitive to use than composite; requires two dental visits to place the filling; and costs significantly more than amalgam or composite fillings.
Porcelain can also cause accelerated wear of the opposing tooth when biting. Gold is sometimes used for dental fillings, most commonly as an inlay. Gold is not used in its pure form, but as an alloy containing 75 percent gold, as well as copper, silver, platinum, palladium and zinc. Gold is extremely durable; fairly aesthetic; it does not damage the opposing tooth when biting; and is very well tolerated by the gums and other intraoral tissues. A well-done gold filling can last two to four times longer than any other dental material and might be considered the "gold standard" for dental fillings. Gold inlays, like porcelain inlays, take two dental visits to complete and are also much more costly than amalgam or composite.