Tooth filling, also known as dental filling or dental restoration, is a treatment to restore the shape and function of the damaged tooth. Cavities in teeth are usually caused by dental caries. After the removal of dental caries, the dentist uses tooth filling to repair the damage. The tooth filling prevents a toothache by protecting nerve endings in the tooth against external stimuli (eg cold irritation). Also, it protects the tooth against recurrent caries formation. The tooth filling restores the masticatory function and aesthetic appearance of teeth. The type of filling depends primarily on the extent of the damage, the location of the affected tooth, and also on the patient’s desire.
Tooth Filling: Types and Materials
The different dental fillings can be differentiated according to the material used:
Amalgam tooth filling
Amalgam tooth filling is still considered a classic when repairing dental caries in posterior teeth (molars). For anterior teeth (incisors and canines), the dark silver amalgam is not used for aesthetic reasons. Amalgam is a mix of silver, tin, copper and mercury and one of the oldest dental materials. It also withstands high chewing pressures, is durable and generally well tolerated. The mercury content of amalgam has repeatedly given rise to discussions and many patients are unsure whether amalgam fillings could harm their health. Scientifically, health problems caused by amalgam fillings cannot be confirmed. Due to its low price, good processing properties and long shelf life, amalgam is still the preferred dental filling in the invisible areas.
Composite tooth filling
Composite, also known as tooth-colored filling, mimics the color of natural teeth. It consists of about 80 percent silica salt or fine glass particles and about 20 percent plastic. Composite fillings are dimensionally stable and quite similar to ceramic fillings. Because of the good aesthetics, they are suitable for anterior and posterior teeth.
Glass ionomer cement
Glass ionomer cement has a limited shelf life. This is why it is mainly used as a temporary tooth filling or for the restoration of primary teeth. Also, it can be used in the restoration of small caries defects in low-stress areas such as the neck of the tooth, but it must be regularly checked by the dentist for durability. Glass ionomer cement contains fluoride, which is released slowly during the filling time.
Porcelain tooth filling (ceramics)
Porcelain fillings, also known as inlay or onlay, are made in the dental laboratory then bonded to the tooth. They mimic the color and appearance of the natural tooth. Also, inlays and onlays can be made from other materials such as gold or composite.
Gold tooth filling
Gold inlays are most commonly used when bite pressure and stress are too high for amalgam or other filling materials or the patient has allergies, intolerances, or concerns about amalgam. They are made in the dental laboratory then bonded to the tooth. Gold is the best filling material and is well tolerated by gum tissues but it is expensive.
If the tooth cavity is large and can’t be restored by tooth fillings, a dental crown may be recommended to restore the shape and function of the tooth.