In modern dentistry, health, resilience, and beauty go hand in hand. Quality materials and precise work of the dentist are the keys to making time-resistant and aesthetic fillings. They restore the lost anatomy, function, and shape of the damaged teeth.
What is a dental filling?
Teeth fillings are various materials created and used to restore the anatomy and function of the teeth1 when their structure is disturbed, as a result of cavity or fractures. The aim of the filling is to replace the lost tissues with a suitable material that seals the holes and prevent further decay as well as chipping and cracking of the tooth.
Most often fillings are used to fill cavities. However, they can also be used to repair damages to the teeth caused by bruxism or to replace part of a broken tooth.
What types of dental fillings are there?
According to their duration of stay in the mouth, the fillings in teeth can be temporary and permanent. Permanent are the ones that permanently restore the tooth. Temporary fillings are a plastic material that temporarily seals a tooth during a longer treatment that requires more than one visit. When root canal treatment is performed, several visits are usually required, between which the tooth is closed with a temporary filling.
What are dental fillings made of? When it comes to materials, there are many different types of fillings and they all have their pros and cons. Possible filling materials include gold or silver amalgam, tooth-coloured composite material, porcelain fillings, and a special type of glass. The best and safest dental fillings for you will be determined by the price, the possibilities for coverage by your insurance, and your aesthetic preferences. The most used types are amalgam and composite resin material.
- Amalgam fillings. They have been used by dentists for over a century. These filings are strong which makes them ideal for filling cavities in the back of the mouth, such as the molars. Because they are made of a combination of several metal elements, amalgam fillings2 can be seen when you laugh or smile. They are among the cheapest cavity and tooth decay fillings.
- Composite fillings. This type of filling contains a combination of glass or quartz filling material and can be made to blend with the colour of the tooth. Composite fillings are also relatively durable and are ideal for small or medium-sized tooth restoration in that part of the oral cavity that is used for moderate chewing. This material is also used as a dental gap filling.
- Ceramic filling: They are usually made of porcelain. It is a long-lasting material and may cost as much as gold.
- Gold and silver dental filling materials. The cost of gold tooth filling can be 10 times higher than the silver teeth prices. Silver and gold fillings can last for 10-15 years before they need to be replaced.
- Glass ionomer: This mixture of acrylic and glass is used to create fillings from which fluoride is released to protect teeth. However, the voice ionomer seal3 lasts less than the others and may need to be replaced only after five years.
Cavity fillings: What to expect during the procedure?
You will probably spend about an hour at the dentist's office. This time will be enough for him/her to examine your teeth, explain the procedure, and do the dental work. Before filling, the dentist will numb your teeth, gums, and surrounding tissues to prevent and reduce the feeling of discomfort during the procedure. Then he/she will drill the destroyed part of the tooth and replace it with a filling. This process only takes a few minutes.
When you're done, you'll probably feel your mouth tingle for a few more hours. The cavity filling does not involve any serious risks. It is normal if you have a little bit of swelling after dental filling. In case of questions or complications contact your dentist.
How long does a dental filling last?
Fillings usually last for years (anywhere from 5 to 20 years) before needing to be replaced. However, over time, they can wear out from chewing. If you clench or grind your teeth, you may need to replace your fillings sooner.
If you notice signs of wear on the filling, such as cracks or frayed areas, go to your dentist for a replacement as soon as possible. Some of the cracked dental filling symptoms are sudden pain and feeling hole over your tooth. Left untreated, the cracked filling may lead to infection and more expensive treatments. If additional tooth decay forms around the filling, your dentist may decide to repair the tooth with a crown instead of a second filling.
How to take care of dental fillings?
It is important to brush and floss well your teeth with fillings as well as to see your dental hygienist regularly. The filling basically replaces your tooth that was broken off or decayed. So there is going to be a seam edge and you want to keep that edge very clean. You will lose a filling quicker if you do not have good oral hygiene.
Amalgam or composite filling: pros and cons
Composite resin fillings are undoubtedly the most widely used materials today. This is probably due to the many advantages that these materials have. Some of them are:
- Aesthetics and tooth coloured fillings. Thanks to the wide range of colours and the combination of them, a perfect match between the colour of the tooth and that of the filling can be achieved, which is extremely important especially when we talk about fillings of front teeth.
- Strong and durable. They attach to the teeth with the help of a chemical bond, which is much stronger than the mechanical one and makes them usable in many more dental areas and in many more dental problems - not only in the tooth decay but also for fractures, cracks, etc.
However, most commonly used, composite materials have some drawbacks such as:
- Cost. It is several times higher than that of amalgams.
- They may take longer to make and model.
Amalgam fillings were the most used fillings in the past. Their pros are:
- Their exceptional strength and resistance to chewing pressure, which is why they often stay in the mouth for 15-20 years or more.
- Extremely low prices. This is the cheapest, but also the worst looking material. It is most often composed of silver, tin, zinc, and other mixed materials. This is the filling that is used by fewer and fewer dentists.
The disadvantages include:
- They have unaesthetic silver colour, which sends the amalgam in the last place when chosen by the patient and the dentist, especially if it is placed on the front teeth. The mercury content is harmless after the seal has hardened, but can affect more sensitive people or pregnant women when removing such fillings.
- It expands slightly over time and creates plaque retention sites, which can lead to bad breath and tooth decay.
Dental Onlay vs. filling
When it comes to dental restorations you have different options - fillings, Onlays4, inlays, crowns, bridges, and so on. Fillings and Onlays have a similar purpose - repair cracked or fractured teeth that are not damaged enough for crowns or implants. But let's see their differences.
Amalgam and composite resin are some of the most frequently used tooth fillings materials. They can be done in a single appointment. They are strong and do the job. They are the least expensive materials initially but as the years go by the filling will wear out and have to be replaced. Fillings can only be replaced so many times before you've lost so much tooth structure that you'd have to crown the tooth.
Dental Onlays have a similar size and shape to silver fillings but the process of making them is more like making a crown. That's because Onlays are custom-crafted in a dental laboratory to precisely fit your tooth which is why the process might be longer. However, today most dentists use CEREC system that allows same-day services. Onlays are more expensive in the short run than amalgam or resin fillings. On the other hand, they may be less expensive in the long run because they are more durable, they won't have to be replaced as often and they may reduce the need for a crown in the future.
How much does tooth filling cost in Singapore?
The teeth filling price in Singapore can vary according to the type of the material, the complexity of the treatment, the dentist you choose, and so on. Composite filling teeth cost between $100 - $300 while silver amalgam filling might be around $50 - $150.
Frequently asked questions
Can you eat after a dental filling?
It is better to avoid food after dental filling at least for the first few hours. From there on you can eat pretty much what you want to
Are dental fillings painful?
Typically there is no pain during the procedure. After fillings, your tooth might be a tiny bit sensitive to some hots and colds and most of the pain comes from the injection site where the tooth has been numbed. You can manage this pain with painkillers.
Is it safe to have dental fillings during pregnancy?
The numbing medications and materials that are used during the procedure are usually safe for both pregnant women and children.
Choose your dentist carefully. Research the reviews for him/her. Never look for the cheapest clinic. Sometimes, with the lowest cost, you receive poor quality service. Trust a specialist who offers you several options and has the patience to explain the advantages and disadvantages of each. A good dentist is not just a talented specialist. He/she is also a good advisor who will help you make the right decision for you.