What Are the Different Types of Dental Fillings?

According to health experts, oral diseases affect as many as 3.9 billion people worldwide. Of these dental health woes, tooth decay is the most common, impacting up to 44% of the population. Worse, almost all adults have at least one decaying tooth.

So, it’s no wonder that dental fillings have grown to become a $5.2 billion market.

Having said that, you may be wondering what types of dental fillings you can get today. You have five primary options, including gold, silver, composite, porcelain, and glass.

Ready to learn which of these are your best options? Then let’s get right into it!

Amalgam Fillings

Dental amalgam fillings have been around for over 150 years. Millions of patients have had their teeth saved by these silver dental fillings.

Dental amalgam is about 50% elemental or liquid mercury. The rest of its structure consists of copper, tin, and silver.

The presence of mercury in these tooth cavity fillings have been a topic of debate for years. That’s because these materials can release vaporized mercury over time. Chronic mercury exposure, in turn, may negatively affect the brain and the kidney.

However, most past and current studies suggest that dental amalgam is safe. It’s also one of the lowest-cost options, with an average price range of $110 to $200 without insurance. With proper care, you can expect it to last for at least a decade.

Before you get amalgam fillings, though, get tested for mercury allergies first. Although very rare, amalgam fillings may trigger allergic reactions in some people. Scientists associate these adverse reactions to amalgam’s mercury content.

Close-up Of Woman Having Her Dental Checkup

Gold Inlays

According to this company, gold fillings can last for up to 20 years or even longer. For starters, gold nanoparticles are some of the most biocompatible materials out there. This, plus their high chemical stability, makes them well-tolerated by gum tissues.

In fact, gold is so biocompatible that one of its isotopes play a role in cancer treatment. There’s also a gold compound used for arthritis treatment.
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Dental gold inlays aren’t 100% gold, though; they also consist of other metals, such as copper. This mix allows the gold particles to become stronger, as pure gold is the most malleable of all metals. For this reason, dental laboratories have to turn them into an alloy to make them hard and strong.

Despite not being pure gold, the average gold dental filling price can be up to 10 times more than amalgam. So, if amalgam costs an average of $110 to $200, expect to pay over $1,000 to $2,000 for a gold inlay.

Composite Resin

Composite resin consists of tooth-colored materials. It’s putty-like in texture, so it’s flexible and moldable. The curing process then hardens the material so that it adheres to the teeth.

Dentists sometimes use composite resin to treat and fill minor tooth cavities. Sometimes, this can be enough to restore small cracks or chips on the tooth. They can even work as a space-filler for a minor diastema, which is a noticeable gap between the teeth.

One of the primary advantages of composite resin is that it resembles natural teeth. This is why many people who want more natural-looking fillings opt for them.

The primary drawback to composite resin fillings is that only about 60% of them last for 10 years or so. This means that four in 10 of them can only survive for less than a decade. Despite this lower survival rate, they’re still often more expensive than amalgam.

Ceramic Fillings

Like composite resin, ceramic fillings also mimic the color of natural teeth. However, ceramic inlays consist of porcelain materials. Studies found that porcelain dentistry materials have a 90% survival rate for up to 20 years.

So, not only do ceramic fillings look better than metal fillings, they last way longer too. Moreover, the porcelain materials they use are more stain-resistant. They’re also less prone to abrasion than composite resin.

One of the cons of ceramic fillings is their cost; it’s at least twice more than composite resin. That makes them as pricey as or even most expensive than gold in some cases.

Also, despite its durability, ceramic is brittle, which is why the filling needs to be thicker. For this reason, dentists must remove more tooth structure to give way for the filling. That’s why many cases of ceramic-filled teeth are irreversible.

Glass Ionomer Fillings

Glass ionomer cement (GIC) usually consists of alumina, calcium, and silica. In many cases, these mixtures also include a fluoride source, such as fluorite. The addition of fluoride helps enhance the teeth’s resistance against tooth decay.

GICs have become popular as oral health experts can alter their physical properties. This then lets dentists create a filling best suited for a patient’s specific needs. Moreover, dentists can mix some resin into the GIC to further strengthen the filling.

GICs are also tooth-colored, so they make for natural-looking restorations. What’s more, these filling materials get stronger over time as they absorb more water.

While they progressively strengthen, GICs can still be brittle, considering that they’re glass. For this reason, dentists usually don’t apply them to high load-bearing teeth. Some GIC mixtures may also be more prone to acid erosion.

It’s also because of this brittleness that GICs usually last only as long as composite resin. Their cost is also similar to composite resin fillings.

Go to a Pro for Help in Choosing the Best Types of Dental Fillings

Today, composite resin materials are the most common types of dental fillings. This is due to their cosmetic appeal, low-cost, and relatively long life span. However, they’re not always the best option, especially if you have a large cavity.

For this reason, the best person to help you choose the right filling is a licensed dentist. So, if you think you have a cavity, it’s best to schedule a dental check-up as soon as possible.

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