For most people, at least once in their lifetime, they will be required to get a filling. Commonly, fillings are used to treat a cavity that has formed in the tooth but occasionally fillings are used to fix cracked or damaged teeth. With a cavity, a filling is simply used to fill the space the cavity has formed within the tooth to make it more structurally sound. Typically when trying to repair a cracked tooth, the crack becomes wider and deeper with repeated pressure over time. With the crack formed in the tooth a filling is necessary to repair the void created by the crack. Regardless of the cause, a filling can lead to many options for the patient including which material to use to fill the void.
When asked to picture what a filling looks like, most people form a picture in their brain of what is called the amalgam filling. These are the traditional silver colored metal fillings. They are called amalgam fillings because they are made up of a mixture of different metals. In a normal amalgam filling about half of the metal is made of mercury and combined with zinc, silver, or copper. With the advances in dentistry and medicine, dentists are now able to fill teeth with composite materials. This material is usually a mix of an acrylic resin and glass in a powdered form.
So what is the benefit of composite material? Mainly the biggest advantage is the ability to match the composite material to the color of the tooth. Aesthetically, composite material is the way to go. Ultimately, some of the composite material has the potential to stain and discolor with certain foods and drinks but this is no different from teeth themselves. With an amalgam filling, the tooth has the very visible silver filling. With an amalgam filling you are unable to change the color. Additionally, composite materials can be used to fill much smaller cavities than with amalgam. This is because the composite material actually bonds to the tooth. Through this bonding the composite is more likely to protect the tooth from temperature change. The bonding also makes a much stronger tooth structure which in turn protects the tooth from future cracking. Plus, with the composite material actually bonding to the tooth there is much less need for the tooth to be drilled. Any drilling that takes place with a composite material filling is very minimal.
When comparing the longevity of a composite filling and a amalgam filling they are about dead even. Typically a composite filling will last between 7 and 10 years which is exactly the same as a amalgam filling. If something should happen that damages the composite filling it is much easier to repair than trying to repair a traditional amalgam filling. The only real instance where a composite filling does not outlast a amalgam filling is on very large cavities. For this reason, amalgam is still the preferred filling material for large cavities. In our dentistry practice we offer the very latest in composite fillings to seamlessly blend with your teeth. Visit our website today to schedule a visit.