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Focus on Fillings – When You Need One and Options Available

Fillings Save Teeth, Relieve Discomfort and Make Your Mouth Better

First of all, let’s go back to the day you were born. As a newborn baby, there were no harmful bacteria inside of your mouth. As you grew older and became a toddler, bacteria found its way into your mouth. It could have happened when your mom kissed you or when you licked the floor as a baby. In any case, those bacteria have now set up a permanent residence inside of your mouth and you will have to deal with them for the rest of your life.
These bacteria live on your teeth. Every time you eat something that they enjoy eating, such as candy, you provide food for them. Feeding these little creatures doesn’t sound like such a bad thing, but it is!
After they eat, they produce a very strong acid that eats away at your teeth. If you don’t remove this sticky layer of bacteria (commonly known as plaque) by brushing and flossing, the bacteria will keep destroying a tiny amount of your tooth structure every day until you get a hole in your tooth. These holes are known by many names, such as tooth decay, cavities, and dental caries.
Our bodies have the amazing ability to repair injured structures. For example, when we break a bone, our body is able to heal the bone by creating new cells that glue the bone back together. Unfortunately, this isn’t true when it comes to our teeth. Although we do get two sets of teeth in our life, once a hole forms in a tooth, the body cannot repair it. Hundreds of years ago (before fillings existed), cavities eventually caused people so much pain that they would have the tooth removed.
Amazingly, modern dentistry has found a way to let you keep your decayed teeth. All that needs to be done is to have the bacteria professionally removed and then to replace the hole in the tooth with a hard, tooth-like material known as a dental filling.
White or Silver? Choose the Right Filling Material for You
There are a variety of different materials that can be used for filling teeth. In this article, we will only address the two most common filling materials, which are amalgam and composite resin.
Amalgam fillings are more commonly known as silver or mercury fillings. They are made up of silver, tin, copper, zinc, and mercury.
Composite resin fillings are more commonly known as white fillings, tooth-colored fillings, and direct veneers. They are made up of very tiny pieces of silica surrounded by a plastic resin usually composed of bis-GMA.
Amalgam Fillings
Amalgam fillings have been in use for more than 180 years in the field of dentistry. When the metals in amalgam come together, they form a soft material that can be used to build your tooth back to its original form. After a few minutes, the amalgam begins to harden as the metals integrate together. Although pure mercury is toxic, the mercury found in amalgam fillings is locked inside when the filling hardens and is therefore not harmful. Many studies have shown that dental amalgam is a safe, time-tested filling material.
Composite Fillings
Composite fillings are newer than amalgam fillings and are constantly improving. The composite resin is about the consistency of modeling clay. In order for the composite to harden, the dentist shines a bright blue light on it. Through a series of chemical reactions, the composite resin hardens into a very strong material that looks very much like a natural tooth.
Which Filling Material Should You Get?
Many people prefer to have white fillings because they are less noticeable. Dentists usually recommend amalgam fillings for the back teeth and composite resin fillings for the front teeth. In order to assist you in making an informed decision, here is a short list of eight factors to consider:
1 Amalgam fillings are stronger than composite fillings. Most dentists recommend amalgam fillings on the back teeth because that is where the majority of the forces are when you bite down. Since amalgam is made of various metals, it is a very strong material. Composite resin fillings wear down faster than amalgam fillings and need to be replaced more often.
2 Composite fillings are more expensive than amalgam fillings. If you’re on a tight budget, amalgam may be your best choice.
3 Amalgam fillings last longer than composite fillings. With future technological advancements, composite fillings will probably last as long as amalgam fillings someday. But for right now, if you want your filling to last a long time, you should choose amalgam.
4 Composite fillings are less noticeable than silver amalgam fillings. If you get an amalgam filling on a back tooth, most likely only you and your dentist will notice it. But if you don’t like seeing silver in your mouth at all, then a composite filling is probably the way to go.
5 Amalgam fillings contain mercury. Amalgam fillings do release extremely small amounts of mercury. The amount of mercury released is less than the amount of mercury you’d get from eating fish, but this does pose a problem for people with a mercury allergy.
6 Composite fillings may leak out Bisphenol-A. Bisphenol-A is a chemical that can be toxic in large enough doses. Based on current evidence, the amount of bisphenol-A released from a filling is unlikely to cause any harm.
7 Amalgam fillings require the dentist to remove healthy tooth structure. Since amalgam fillings don’t bond to the tooth like composite fillings, the dentist has to make the filling wider at the bottom than it is at the top so that the tooth will hold the filling in place. In order to do this, the dentist usually has to cut away healthy tooth structure. With composite fillings, the dentist can simply remove the decay and then place the filling without cutting away healthy tooth structure to retain the filling.
8 Composite fillings shrink when they harden. Most composite fillings get somewhere between 2-5% smaller when they harden. Sometimes this can lead to gaps between the filling and the tooth which allow bacteria to enter and start a new cavity. Other times, when a large composite filling shrinks as it hardens, it can put stress on the tooth which results in increased sensitivity of the affected tooth. The effect of the shrinkage can be minimized if the dentist adds the composite in small, incremental layers.
9 Composite fillings are more technique-sensitive. This means that the dentist has to pay close attention to detail when placing a composite filling. For example, if your dentist doesn’t properly prepare the tooth with an etching solution for a specific amount of time, or if they do, but some of your saliva gets onto the tooth after it is etched, the filling may not attach to the tooth tightly and could end up leaking and ultimately needing to be replaced after only a year or two.  Our dentists have lots of experience doing white fillings and will do a good job.
Hopefully the above section will help you figure out which type of filling will work best for you. Even if you are still uncertain, at least now you know what issues or concerns to further discuss with your dentist.
Source: DentalFearCentral.org, WebMD

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