Dental Filling Materials

As much as we try to prevent cavities, sometimes, they still happen. Brushing and flossing, a low-sugar or no-sugar diet, and tooth-strengthening fluorides from toothpaste and tap water can help prevent tooth decay. If you do get a cavity, it usually needs to be filled so the cavity does not get bigger. There are different materials a dentist can use to fix a cavity.

Glass Ionomer restorations: This type of filling is like the color of your tooth and has been used since the 1990s. After your dentist removes the cavity, this filling sticks to the tooth and releases fluoride into the tooth to help prevent decay around the edge of the filling. This type of filling may not last as long as other types and may not match exactly to the color of your teeth.

Composite restorations: This type of filling is like the color of your tooth and has been used for 40 years. It comes in lots of different colors, so it is easier to match the color of your teeth. They also can last for a long time. After the dentist removes the cavity, different chemicals are used to make the filling stick to your tooth. It takes more time for a dentist to use this type of filling and it costs more than other types. Some people have expressed concerns about Bisphenol A, or BPAs, however the materials are part of the filling and come out in only microscopic amounts. Current studies show the materials are safe with no ill health effects, and no studies have reported benefit from removal. More

Amalgam restorations: This type of filling has been used for many years and it is made of silver, tin, copper, zinc, and mercury. They last a long time, are very strong, and do not cost a lot of money. Amalgam fillings are not as popular because they are not the same color as your teeth, other types of fillings are better than they used to be, and some people do not want to have a filling that is made with mercury. After the dentist removes the decay, he places a soft, moldable amalgam material in the cavity. The amalgam fully hardens in less than 30 minutes. Once the amalgam is hard, most of the mercury is sealed inside the filling. Microscopic amounts of mercury come out of the filling when you chew or if you grind your teeth. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently provided recommendations about the use of dental amalgam in certain groups of people who may be at greater risk to the adverse health effects of mercury exposure. More information is available here.  In response to the new recommendations, the American Dental Association, which is the nation’s largest organization representing dentists, reaffirmed their support for dental amalgam through a media release where they stated that “dental amalgam is a durable, safe and effective cavity-filling option.”