While prevention through brushing and flossing is definitely better than cure when it comes to caring for your teeth and gums, should tooth decay develop, your dentist has a range of options for restoring your teeth’s shape and function.
Fillings may be required if tooth structure has been lost due to decay or trauma. During a regular check-up, your dentist will examine your teeth for these defects, and using X-rays to pinpoint the location and extent of decay, will then decide on the best method to restore the integrity of your tooth, which may include fillings.
When a filling is required there is a variety of materials that can be used, all of which have unique properties and advantages. Some factors which influence the type of material to be used will be the type of tooth, the strength requirements and the way your teeth bite together. Your dentist will give you advice on what is appropriate for your situation.
Amalgam is a durable material, but requires more of the tooth to be removed, and it can blacken with age. While amalgam is increasingly giving way to tooth-coloured filling materials such as resin, it is still in use, safe, and there is no need to replace your amalgam fillings just for the sake of it.
Composite resin is a commonly used white or tooth-coloured filling material., It can be “glued” to the surface of the tooth, and a matching tooth colour can be picked so that the filling is almost invisible. On the other hand, the composite resin material is more difficult to use, which makes the restoration a bit more expensive when compared with amalgam.
Glass-Ionomer Cement (GIC) is also tooth coloured; however it is not as durable and strong as composite resin, although it does bond well to the tooth and it has some decay-preventing abilities. Glass-ionomer cement is often used for the areas of the tooth where there is not much biting force, and also to fill baby teeth.
Gold & Porcelain
Gold fillings tend to be the most durable over the long-term, while ceramic fillings are both strong and able to be matched to your tooth colour to produce a very long lasting and aesthetic filling. Both gold and porcelain fillings take longer to prepare and manufacture, meaning more appointments and more cost.
Short-term ('temporary') fillings may be used when multiple appointments on a tooth are required, if there is insufficient time to complete the treatment in one visit, or during emergency treatment.
Following treatment, your tooth may feel sensitive to things like pressure, cold air, sweet foods or changes in temperature for a few days. If this persists, return to your dentist so the cause can be investigated.
Constant wear and tear can cause fillings to wear, chip or crack, opening the seal between the tooth and the filling, allowing food particles and decay-causing bacteria. However, if you’re seeing your dentist regularly, they’ll look after this before it becomes serious.
Your dentist may restore your tooth with a crown rather than a filling. Usually made of gold or porcelain, they’re a customised tooth-shaped cover designed to protect the structure of the tooth, often used where a large filling needs to be replaced but where there’s not enough tooth left to support a filling.