A decayed tooth must be repaired after it has been cleaned and drilled. There is a broad range of materials used to fill teeth, and each one has its unique pros and cons. It’s important to discuss with your dentist about safety issues as well as longevity of the different types of fillings to make this procedure more cost-effective.
Fillings are a standard procedure performed by dentists and have evolved in material composition as well as durability and shade options. Most people will need to have one or more fillings in their lifetime, and will often choose to have the least expensive type applied to their teeth. Some dental patients are far more concerned about their health when choosing fillings to repair more than they are about the cost involved.
Mercury Amalgam Fillings
The controversy around the safety of mercury amalgam fillings in the dental and scientific community has swirled on for decades. Mercury amalgam fillings are less expensive than other filling options but appear to carry an underlying risk. According to the FDA’s website, individuals with high systemic traces of mercury, individuals with super-sensitivity to mercury, and pregnant women should discuss filling options with their health practitioner. The newly updated information on the FDA’s website comes after it settled a lawsuit between them and individuals/consumer groups who clamored to bring awareness to the public about the health dangers of long term exposure to mercury. Aside from these reasons, many people hate the idea of getting a bunch of mercury amalgam fillings because it’s not aesthetically attractive.
Composite Resin Fillings
Composite resin fillings are a composition of fine glass particles and plastic. Composite resin fillings fall under the category of indirect and direct. Direct fillings are applied by your dentist in layers and is then cured using a bright blue light. Indirect fillings are applied after the dentist prepares and makes an impression of the patient’s tooth. Filling is then fashioned from the tooth mold. During a second visit, the dentist cements the filling into place. Composite resin is used to apply small and large fillings, especially for teeth that are visible and for inlays.
Pros of Getting Composite Resin Fillings
Getting composite resin fillings have several advantages with their application. Unlike with mercury amalgam fillings, dental patients can have composite resin fillings made in a shade that will match the color of their teeth. Composite fillings can bond directly to the tooth which reinforces it better than an amalgam filling. Composite resin fillings require less drilling than amalgam fillings since the dentist doesn’t have to contour the tooth space as much to securely hold the filling. Composite resin can be used in combination with other dental materials such as glass ionomer to enhance their benefits. Composite fillings and inlays typed as "indirect" cured with high heat which maximizes their strength. Composite resin fillings can last at least five years.
Cons of Composite Resin Fillings
There are a few disadvantages associated with the application of composite resin fillings. Unfortunately, it’s unclear whether or not composite resin fillings can bear the pressure of chewing as amalgam fillings, particularly as this would pertain to a larger diameter filling. Composite resins take more time to apply and may shrink which produces a gap between the filling and the tooth. However, this occurrence can be minimized if the dentist applies the resin in thin layers. Composite materials degrade sooner than amalgam fillings and can chip off the tooth. Sometimes the dentist unprepared to make an inlay while you wait. As a result, inlays and indirect fillings can take at least two visits to complete. Lastly, composite fillings can cost twice as much as amalgam fillings.
Other Filling Types
Ceramics and glass ionomer are other tooth-colored fillings available besides composite resin fillings. Ceramic fillings are typically composed of porcelain and are more resistant to tooth stains than composite resin material but have a more abrasive texture. Ceramic fillings last more than 15 years and can be comparable in cost to a gold filling. Glass Ionomer is a blended filling material made of acrylic and a specific glass type. It is generally used for fillings in young children and for repairing the tooth beneath the border of the gum. Glass ionomers contain and secrete fluoride, which is a preventative measure for future tooth decay. On the downside, glass ionomer is not as strong as composite resin and is more prone to degrade and fracture. This filling material typically lasts five years or less and is comparable in price to composite resin
Composites and Dental Insurance Coverage
The majority of dental insurance plans cover the cost of composite fillings, but only up to the cost silver filling in which a patient may have to cover the rest of the cost out-of-pocket.
Allergic reactions to silver fillings are rare with the ADA reporting less than 100 cases of bad reactions to silver to date. Out of all of the cases documented, it appears that the mercury or one of the other metals in the filling are believed to trigger an allergic reaction. Amalgam allergy symptoms are very similar to the allergic reactions associated with a typical skin allergy such as itching or skin rashes. The dentist will ask the patient if they have a medical or family history of being allergic to metals. If this is the case, another restorative filling material will be used to repair the patient’s teeth.