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Dental Filling Materials: The Pros and Cons of Some of the Top Options

Posted on 10/23/2015 by Dr. Andrew Zeiger
A diagram of a dental filling inside a patients tooth.If you are in need of a filling to treat a cavity, you have several options to choose from as far as filling materials. There are pros and cons to each option, and your dentist can help you to choose the right one for you.

However, understanding the pros and cons about some of the most popular can help you to make an informed decision about the right dental filling materials.

Dental Amalgam

Dental amalgam is a type of self-hardening mixture consisting of silver-tin-copper alloy powder. It also contains liquid mercury and may be referred to as a "silver filling" due to the color. This filling is often used to treat broken teeth, and it comes with a variety of advantages:

•  Durable and long lasting, holding up well under the force of biting
•  Relatively inexpensive
•  Self-sealing with virtually no shrinkage
•  Resists further decay
•  Need for replacement and repair is low

However, there are some shortcomings to these fillings. The primary cause for concern is safety, as elemental mercury can make up as much as 54% of the material, and some people are concerned about possible toxicity. However, the FDA and CDC have investigated the safety of this material and have found that there is no proof to show that amalgam can harm patients, except in the cases of allergy, which is rare. Other negatives include the fact that the filling doesn't match the rest of the tooth and the fact that putting it into the tooth will require some healthy tooth removal.

Composite Resin

Composite resin fillings are made up of a mix of plastic resin and powdered glass in order to create a white or tooth-colored filling. This material is used for fillings as well as crowns, veneers, and inlays, and it can repair portions of broken teeth. The benefits of choosing a composite resin include the fact that these fillings are tooth-colored, they preserve the maximum amount of the natural tooth, and they are resistant to breakage.

However, like all dental procedures, some shortcomings can be noted with composite resin fillings:

•  Some fillings may cause tooth sensitivity
•  These fillings tend to cost more than the dental amalgam option
•  The material can shrink when hardened, possibly leading to temperature sensitivity or further decay
•  These fillings can wear faster than the dental enamel and can leak over time when they are bonded under the enamel layer

Porcelain or Ceramic

Porcelain is a material similar to glass that is formed into fillings using models of the teeth. This material is also used to create fixed bridges and crowns, and it is tooth-colored. Benefits include the fact that these fillings provide good resistance to additional decay as long as the restoration fits well, and porcelain is usually resistant to surface wear and leakage. However, this material can be brittle and might break under the biting forces, so it is not recommended for the molars.

Resin-Isomer Cement

This material is a mix of resin polymer and glass along with an organic acid that will harden when exposed to a specialized light used in your dentist's office. It is tooth-colored and is more translucent than other options, but it is most commonly used to treat small fillings. Resin-isomer cement is a good option for fillings because it can provide a defense against decay by releasing fluoride, and a minimal amount of the tooth will need to be removed.

It is great for non-biting surfaces, but its use can be limited because it isn't recommended to restore the biting surfaces of the teeth. Resin-isomer cement is also fairly expensive and might wear faster than amalgam or composite fillings.

If you have additional questions about the types of dental filling materials available, contact our office for more information.

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