We’ve spoken a lot on our blog about oral health, hygiene, and habits but we think it might be time to talk about what your options are if dental problems do occur. Sometimes, despite our best efforts at maintaining a good oral care routine, we need help from a dentist. That’s why we’re here after all. We’re always happy to do cosmetic work on your teeth to improve your confidence in your smile but that’s certainly not all we do.
One of the most common treatments we have to perform is the placing of fillings. So, we thought it might be helpful to inform you of the different types of fillings and in what situations they are used so you know your options if you ever need to have one. Colgate advises that “most people will need at least one filling in their lifetime”, so if you have to get one, you’re certainly not alone.
What is a filling?
A filling is a substance that is applied to a tooth that has broken down over time. This fills the cavity in the tooth, hence why they are referred to as fillings. They can help to defend against further tooth decay by forming a physical barrier between the cavity and future food particles your tooth will come into contact with.
When are fillings used?
When a cavity appears in a tooth which can affect your oral health or day-to-day life a filling is necessary. For example, if you are feeling increased sensitivity to hot or cold foods and drinks in one tooth, in particular, you may be advised to get a filling to remedy this. That is because the likely cause of severe tooth sensitivity is a cavity which is increasingly allowing food particles and bacteria to irritate the nerve of your tooth.
A filling will restore the tooth and reduce the chance of infection and further decay which will cause more symptoms and necessitate more expensive, complex treatment down the line.
What are fillings made of?
There are different types of fillings and sealants. Which kind you opt for may depend on the extent of the damage to the tooth and also which tooth the problem is affecting may influence your decision.
Essentially there are three common types of fillings:
- Mercury Amalgam (silver) fillings – The NHS advises that these are composed of “a mixture of metals, including mercury, silver, tin and copper.” These are hard-wearing metals which can usually withstand many years of chewing. However, they are not usually the first choice for a highly visible tooth since they are grey or silver in colour and can stand out against the colour of your teeth. Nowadays, people requiring a filling usually elect to have a composite resin (white) filling which blends into the smile better and requires less drilling. This is a personal choice and one to make through conversations with your dentist.
- Composite resins (white) fillings – These are tooth-coloured fillings and are usually made from a mixture of glass and resin which will look more natural in your mouth than a grey-coloured one. This material bonds to your tooth so require less drilling than a mercury amalgam filling. These fillings usually require extra skills and equipment to place.
Fillings differ slightly from fissure sealants in that a filling (or dental restoration) is designed to not only effectively block bacteria from causing further harm but also restore the function and integrity of the tooth whereas a fissure sealant only seals the fissure against bacteria.
- Fissure sealants – Deep pits and grooves can be found on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. Such pits and grooves are termed ‘fissures’ and are usually so narrow that toothbrush bristles and streams of water are not able to clean them effectively. Fissure sealants can be applied to the teeth to protect these areas.
Fissure sealants are a form of flowable white, or clear filling material used by dentists to seal off pits and fissures from the oral environment. Sealing the tooth surface protects fissures from bacteria and foods like sugar and starches, to prevent decay from starting deep within the fissures.
As we say, we hope you’ll never need to know the difference between a composite and amalgam filling, but the chances are, you will at some point. Remember though, that fillings are no substitute for a consistent, daily oral care routine and regular trips to the dentist and hygienist.
If you have any questions about the fillings that we offer and recommend at Kennett Road Dental Practice, you can ask at your next check-up or appointment with us, or you can contact us here.