Newer dental fillings are ceramic and plastic compounds that mimic the appearance of natural teeth. These compounds, often called composite resins, are used on the any teeth where a natural appearance is important. Also, composite fillings bond to tooth structure, which preserves some of the strength the tooth originally had.
There are limits to how large a filling can be. You may have heard a dentist say that a tooth needed a crown instead of a filling. This is because a very large filling, even when bonded, will not be strong enough to withstand the forces of chewing whereas a crown will actually strengthen the tooth.
Dental Amalgam is still used, though rarely. It does not bond to the tooth, so actually weakens the tooth, and it has a dark color. After extensive research of available evidence, Dr. Donovan does not feel there is any health risk from the minute amount of mercury released from these fillings during chewing.
What's right for me?
Several factors influence the performance, durability, longevity and expense of dental restorations, including:
- The components used in the filling material
- The amount of tooth structure remaining
- Where and how the filling is placed
- The chewing load that the tooth will have to bear
- The length and number of visits needed to prepare and adjust the restored tooth
Before your treatment begins, your doctor will discuss with you all of your options and help you choose the best filling for your particular case. In preparation for this discussion it may be helpful to understand the two basic types of dental fillings — direct and indirect.
- Direct fillings are fillings placed immediately into a prepared cavity in a single visit. They include glass ionomers, resin ionomers, and composite (resin) fillings. The dentist prepares the tooth, places the filling, and adjusts it in one appointment.
- Indirect fillings generally require two or more visits. They include inlays, onlays and veneers fabricated with ceramics, porcelain or gold. During the first visit, the dentist prepares the tooth and scans the area to be restored. The dentist then places a temporary covering over the prepared tooth. The scan is sent to a dental laboratory, which creates the dental restoration. At the next appointment, the dentist cements the restoration into the prepared cavity and adjusts it as needed.