There are a number of different fillings including:
-Amalgam (silver coloured)
-Composite fillings (tooth coloured)
-Glassionomer (tooth coloured)
-Gold inlays and onlays (gold coloured)
-Porcelain inlays (tooth coloured).
Amalgam fillings are silver coloured. They are made by combining mercury and a silver alloy (50% mercury, 35% silver, 15% tin, copper and other metals). Amalgam is long lasting and hard wearing and has been used in fillings for at least 150 years. It is economical to use and it is not unusual for an amalgam filling to last 15 to 20 years.
This kind of filling is normally used on the back ‘chewing’ teeth. Before the filling can be placed, the area must be prepared by removing all the decay and shaping the cavity to hold the filling in place. If the tooth is badly broken, your dentist may need to place a small stainless steel pin to help secure the filling
Composite fillings are strong, but may not be as hard wearing as amalgam fillings. Composite fillings are tooth coloured and are made from powdered glass quartz, silica or other ceramic particles added to a resin base. After the tooth is prepared, the filling is bonded onto the area and a light shone onto it to set it. The dentist will choose a shade to match your existing teeth, although over time staining can happen.
Glass ionomer fillings form a chemical link with the tooth. They may also release fluoride, which helps to prevent further tooth decay. This type of filling is fairly weak and, because of this, is usually limited to use on baby teeth and non-biting surfaces such as around the necks of the teeth. Little preparation is needed as the filling bonds directly to the tooth.
An inlay is and within the biting surface of the tooth.
An onlay can cover a larger area of the tooth.
Gold is the most long lasting and hard wearing filling material and will last for many years. An advantage of gold is that it does not tarnish and has great strength.
One of the differences between gold and other filling materials is that the gold filling is made in a laboratory. Your dentist will usually take an impression of the prepared cavity and send it to the laboratory for the technician to make the inlay or onlay. In the meantime a temporary filling will be placed in the cavity. After the gold inlay or onlay has been made, your dentist will fix it in place with dental cement. This type of filling is more expensive
We can now use digital technology (called CADCAM) to design and prepare perfectly fitted porcelain inlays in just one or two visits. Porcelain inlays can also be made in a laboratory but this will need at least two visits to your dentist. Porcelain can be hard wearing and long lasting and also has the benefit of being able to be coloured to match your natural tooth. Again, this type of filling can be quite expensive
Pit and fissure sealants
Sealants are a safe and painless way of protecting your teeth from decay. A sealant is a protective plastic coating, which is applied to the biting surfaces of the back teeth. The sealant forms a hard shield that stops food and bacteria getting into the tiny grooves in the teeth and causing decay
The sealant forms a smooth, protective barrier by covering all the little grooves and dips (pits and fissures) in the surface of the tooth. Dental decay easily starts in these grooves
Sealants are only applied to the back teeth – the molars and premolars. These are the teeth that have pits and fissures on their biting surfaces. Your dentist will tell you which teeth should be sealed after examining them, and checking whether the fissures are deep enough for sealing to help. Some teeth naturally form with deep grooves which can be sealed, others form with shallow ones which may not need sealing.
Sealants are often applied as soon as the adult teeth start to come through. This is usually between 6 and 7 years of age. The rest are usually sealed as soon as they appear, which can be any time between 11 and 14.
What it involves
Sealing is usually quick and straightforward, taking only a few minutes for each tooth. The tooth is thoroughly cleaned, prepared with a special solution, and then dried. The liquid sealant is then put onto the tooth and allowed to set hard – usually by shining a bright light onto it.
It is a totally pain free procedure, and the teeth do not feel any different afterwards
Sealants usually last for many years, but your dentist will want to check them regularly to make sure that the seal is still intact. They can wear over time, and sometimes the dentist needs to add or replace some sealant to make sure that no decay can start underneath.