When people think of dentists, their first thought is often “cavities”. With cavities come fillings usually ugly, silver fillings in an otherwise white smile. Since the introduction of composite resin fillings in the 1990s, and advances and improvements on materials and application methods, K. Pat Brown, DDS, patients are discovering that fillings are not quite as intimidating as they once were.
As common as they may be, though, cavity fillings can be more complex than you might imagine. Thus, knowing the difference between different types of cavity fillings and knowing what to expect from a treatment can be important the next time your dentist finds a cavity.
Why Pick Composite Fillings Over Other Types of Fillings?
Did you know that there are different materials a dentist can use to fill a cavity? At K. Pat Brown, DDS, we recommend a composite material, and a quick comparison of the potential filling types will explain why. The three most common substances used to create a cavity filling include:
- Gold: The rarest, and, as you can probably imagine, the most expensive type of filling material is gold. While the result might be aesthetically pleasing to some, the cost as well as the relatively weakness of the filling is enough to turn most patients away from the age-old solution to more modern equivalents.
- Amalgam: For a long time, the amalgam was the go-to solution for cavity fillings. What dentists call an amalgam is actually an alloy of several metals — silver, tin, zinc, and copper — bound together by mercury. While the other metals actually render the mercury inert, the mercury is the main reason for amalgam’s durability and longevity. Amalgams are both the cheapest and strongest type of cavity filling. However, they do have a big turn-off for many people because of their distinctive silver color which is easily noticeable. Aside from this major drawback, though, amalgams are perfectly safe and functional as a cavity filling and are still commonly used to restore molar teeth.
- Composite: Many dentists recommend and offer cavity fillings created from a composite material since looks, after all, do matter. Because composite fillings are formed from a plastic and glass mixture, they can be dyed to exactly match the color of a patient’s tooth. They are slightly more expensive and have a slightly shorter lifespan than silver fillings, but are often the perfect restoration option for front teeth. With improved techniques, technology and materials, composite can also be used in molars.
What is the Filling Placement Procedure Like?
Once you decide to go ahead with placement of composite fillings, your dentist will begin by numbing the area with a local anesthetic to keep you comfortable during the whole procedure before continuing with the actual detail work.
What we very simply call a filling is what’s needed to repair a tooth that has decayed over time. To repair the tooth, your dentist has to carefully remove the decayed portions with drill or a laser. Only when the decay is completely cleaned out can your dentist carefully apply the filling material to permanently close the gap and keep further decay out.
With composite fillings, this means that your dentist will carefully inject a special solution into the gap left behind by the decay. Small thin layer after small thin layer, your dentist will apply a light or laser to cause the filling to “cement” and chemically bond with the tooth in question. When the bonding is complete, the procedure is done.
If you feel that you might have a cavity, or if you just want to learn more about composite fillings in general, feel free to speak with one of our K. Pat Brown, DDS, dentists at any time! You can contact our office at (951) 695-6269 or via our website at any time to set up an appointment.