Types of filling materials

More information on filling materials can also be found at Restorative Materials.

Metal Fillings

 

Tooth-coloured fillings

1. Dental Amalgam Fillings

These are sometimes called "silver" fillings.  They are the most common kind of filling used in Canada today.  Because these fillings are silver in colour, they are usually used to fill back teeth.  They are a mix of metals such as mercury, silver, copper and tin.

Pros:

  • these are the least expensive type of filling.
  • they last a long time (on average, longer than composite.)
  • they are easy to put in place. (Since they are a direct filling, one visit to your dentist will do the job.)

Cons:

  • the silver colour may not appeal to people who want a "natural" look.
  • tiny amounts of mercury are released from the filling when you chew.  For most people, this is nothing to worry about.  Studies have shown that amalgam fillings do not cause illness.  They have been used on people for more than 150 years.
  • Health Canada has advised that pregnant women in need of a filling may want to wait until the baby is born before they go ahead.  Your dentist can suggest other kinds of fillings, if the work is urgent.
2. Cast Gold Fillings

These are based on a model (or cast) of your tooth.  Cast gold fillings are a mixture of gold with other metals such as silver and copper.  These other metals make gold fillings more durable.

A cast gold filling is made in a dental lab and sent back to your dentist, who cements it in place in your mouth.  you will need at least 2 visits to the dentist to get the job done.

During the first visit, your dentist cleans out all the decay and makes a mold of your tooth.  The hole is filled with a temporary filling.  Meanwhile in a dental lab, the mold of your tooth is used to make a model.  A filling that is the same size and shape as your tooth is built based on the model.  When you go back to the dentist a couple of weeks later, your dentist cements the gold filling in place.

Pros:

  • the physical properties of gold make them the most ideal filling material.
  • gold fillings last a long time.

Cons:

  • gold costs more than other kinds of fillings.
  • gold fillings and crowns are indirect fillings, so they take at least 2 appointments.
  • the gold colour may not appeal to people who want a "natural" look.
 
3. Composite Fillings

These are also called plastic or white fillings.  Getting this kind of filling depends on where the tooth is in your mouth.  We bite down hard on our back teeth (molars), so a plastic filling may not be a good choice here.  Talk to your dentist about your other choices.

To do the job, your dentist cleans all decay from the tooth and puts a glue (or bonding material) on the inside of the hole.  Composite resin is put into the hole in thin layers.  Each layer gets hard with the help of a special light that your dentist holds over the tooth.  When the last layer of the filling is hard, your dentist shapes the filling so it looks and feels natural.

Pros:

  • these fillings will be the same colour as your natural teeth.
  • they cost less than gold fillings.
  • they are direct fillings, so they can be done in 1 appointment in most cases.

Cons:

  • this kind of filling can break more easily than amalgam or gold fillings, and they may not last as long.
  • they cost more than amalgam fillings.
  • recurrent decay is more of a problem than with amalgam or gold fillings.
4. Glass Ionomer Materials

These are only used on non-biting tooth surfaces.

There have not been many studies about how long this kind of filling lasts.  Newer forms of the filling may be stronger and may last longer.  Research is underway to tell us more.

Pros:

  • these fillings are the same colour as your natural teeth.
  • They contain fluoride, which helps stop recurrent decay in the tooth.
  • they do NOT have to be put in layer by layer.  This makes it simpler than putting in composite resins.
  • they are direct fillings and can be done in 1 appointment, in most cases.
  • they cost less than gold fillings.

Cons:

  • they should only be used on non-biting tooth surfaces.
  • they cost more than amalgam fillings.
5. Porcelain Materials

These are the most common kinds of dental ceramic used by dentist.  They are hard and brittle.

Porcelain and metal can be combined to make a strong, tooth-coloured crown.  The crown is based on a model of your tooth.  It is made in a dental lab in much the same way as a cast gold filling or crown is made.  Unless you have a bad tooth grinding habit or some other problem, a combination of porcelain and metal can be used anywhere in the mouth.

Pros:

  • dental porcelain is the same colour as natural teeth.
  • these fillings last a long time.

Cons.

  • for teeth that bite down hard, like molars, ceramics are not a good choice.  Fillings can break.
  • they are indirect fillings, so at least 2 appointments will be needed.
  • they cost more than most other types of fillings.

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