If you have tooth decay your dentist will need to remove the affected area and fill it to protect the tooth and prevent infection.
A number of materials can be used to fill cavities in your teeth. The most common used to be silver-grey amalgam because it’s tough, cheap and was widely used on the NHS. However its colour can make some self-conscious about their smile, so more and more people are looking at other options.
Composite fillings – commonly referred to as “white fillings”, these are made of a resin mixed with glass or quartz, chosen to match the colour of your teeth. Modern composites can be as hard wearing as traditional amalgams
Ceramic – usually made of porcelain and tooth-coloured, they’re very durable and less likely to stain over time but can be costly and require 2 visits to perform
Glass Ionomer – a blend of acrylic and glass and designed to chemically bond to tooth teeth and release fluoride. They are not as durable as other options when placed under biting pressures.
Metals – some people opt for gold fillings, which again can be more costly and require 2 visits to perform but are still a very good option in terms of longevity. Silver amalgam may still be used and is durable and long-lasting, however it is not as aesthetic and does not bond to tooth structure like composite, necessitating a slightly larger cavity to be drilled.
At Kelvin House Dental Practice we offer a wide range of filling options for patients and will explore all the options with you to decide the type of filling that is most suitable for you.
Fillings can last for many years before they need replacing, especially old-type sliver-grey amalgams that can last anything from 10-15 years or more.
However the mouth can be a hostile environment. Chewing and grinding food over many years will naturally take its toll and eventually there will be tell-tale signs that a filling is reaching the end of its life.
Pieces broken off
Sensitivity around the filling
It can be possible to repair minor damage to filings, but in the long run it may be more cost-effective to simply replace them or look at a more durable solution like an onlay or a crown.
At Kelvin House Dental Practice we will look for these signs of wear on every check-up and will discuss the options with you for repair, replacement or to simply monitor the site.
A filling usually needs a 30-60 minute appointment and will depend on the type of material being used.
First your dentist will numb the area with a local anaesthetic. This may take a few minutes to properly take effect. A rubber sheet may be used to isolate the tooth receiving treatment.
The decayed area is removed with a fine drill, then smoothed off with another type of drill. You may experience vibrations during this, but the whole process should only take a few minutes.
The cavity is packed with your chosen filling material – whether amalgam, composite, or other – and shaped to fit. Amalgam can take up to 24 hours to set fully whereas composite sets immediately using a special light whilst you are in the dental chair.
That’s it. You may continue to experience numbness for a couple of hours so it is best to avoid using the area until the numbness subsides.
They look great – white fillings blend with your natural tooth, making them virtually invisible.
They support – the tough resin of white fillings bonds to the tooth and adds support, allowing your dentist to keep more of the original tooth
They’re durable – modern composite materials are ten times stronger than in the past and can withstand years of chewing and grinding
They’re flexible – composite fillings can withstand repeated contraction and expansion from hot and cold things far better than amalgams, which can weaken and crack
They’re versatile – the strong composite material can be used for all sorts of repairs beyond simply filling cavities.