What is a Dental Filling?
A filling is a means to restore and repair a damaged or decayed tooth back to its normal function and shape. Whenever your tooth requires a filling, your dentist will first remove the decayed tooth material, followed by cleaning of the affected area, and will finally fill the cleaned cavity with a filling material.
A filling not only eliminates the bacteria from the cavity by sealing off the affected area but also helps in prevention of any further decay of the tooth structure.
What are the various types of fillings?
There are different kinds of fillings depending on the materials used to cover the defects. Materials used in fillings comprise of gold, composite resin (tooth-colored fillings), porcelain, and amalgam (an alloy of mercury, silver, copper, tin and zinc).
Which type of filling is best?
Not any single kind of filling is best for one and all. The choice of filling (or the material) that is right for you will be based on factors like the extent of the damage, whether you have any allergy to a particular material, the area in your mouth where the filling is required, and the cost. Considerations for different materials include:
1) Gold fillings
These are created in a laboratory according to each patient and then cemented into appropriate place. Gold inlays are well tolerated by gums (gingiva), and may persist for more than 20 years. For these reasons, many experts view gold as the best filling material. However, it is often the most expensive choice and requires multiple dental visits.
2) Amalgam (silver) fillings
These are resistant to wear and comparatively inexpensive. However, because of their dark color, they become more evident and prominent as compared to porcelain or composite restorations. For this reason, silver fillings are not used in very visible areas, such as front teeth.
3) Composite (plastic) resins
These fillings have the same color as your teeth and therefore employed where a natural appearance is needed. The components of composite resins are mixed and placed straight into the cavity, where they get harden with time.
Composites may not be the ideal choice for large defects as they may chip off or wear out over time. These can also get stained from tea, coffee or tobacco, and have less life (usually of 3 to 10 years) than other types of fillings.
4) Porcelain fillings
They are called inlays or onlays and are produced in a laboratory and then bonded to the tooth. The color of porcelain fillings matches with that of the natural tooth. Unlike composites, porcelain resists staining. A porcelain restoration covers most of the tooth structure, but their cost is comparable to gold fillings.
If a significant portion of your tooth has got decayed or fractured, which cannot be restored by simple fillings, and then you may need a crown or cap. Likewise, if your tooth decay has reached the nerves, then it may be treated in two ways: either by root canal therapy (in which damaged nerve is removed) or through pulp capping (a procedure that attempts to keep the nerve alive).
It is therefore highly advisable for you to get the proper filling done in your tooth according to the required need and demand.
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