Which Type Of Tooth Filling?

The pros and cons of different types of dental fillings.

By far the most common procedure carried out by dentists is the humble filling. This is used when a cavity appears in the tooth, usually caused by tooth decay. The decaying material is firstly removed and the cavity then filled using one of a number of materials.

There are two main types of filling materials that are most often used in dental practices in the UK and each have its own pros and cons.

Some types may not be suitable for all cavities and here at Foxhall Dental our team will always discuss the most appropriate one for your own particular needs so that you receive the best treatment outcome possible.

Without further ado then, let us take a look at these fillings, along with a brief look at other possible restorations.

Amalgam fillings

This is the type of dental filling that many of our patients will be most familiar with. It is a strong but dark coloured material that is made from a mixture of metals that include tin, copper, silver and mercury.  It does offer a very high level of strength and also lasts for a long time before it will need to be replaced and the tooth refilled. Amalgam dental fillings are not without their drawbacks though. The most obvious of these being the dark colour which makes a tooth filled in this manner very visible when we laugh or smile, or even yawn. For this reason, many of our patients are increasingly turning to cosmetic options when a filling is needed on a particularly visible tooth such as those at the front of the mouth, sometimes also called the ‘social six’ teeth.

Amalgam fillings can also shrink a little over time. This can lead to tiny gaps appearing between the filling and the tooth. This small gap can attract bacteria and further decay is quite possible. Finally, the use of mercury in amalgam fillings has caused some discussion over the years. It has been shown to be safe to use in this situation but the potentially negative impact of mercury in the environment means that it is likely to be phased out in the coming years ahead.

Tooth coloured fillings

Many of our Ipswich patients now look to a natural looking tooth coloured filling instead of amalgam when they require one. The most obvious benefit of this type of filling  is that it can be produced in a shade similar to the natural part of the affected tooth, rendering it almost invisible to those around you. Its aesthetic appeal though isn’t the only benefit. This type of fillings bonds well to the natural part of the tooth and will not shrink over time as amalgam can. This reduces the risk of further decay in the treated tooth.

This type of filling is made from a mixture of glass, resin and a setting ingredient and, although it may have in the past not always offered the level of strength that amalgam has, it has greatly improved over time and now comes very close indeed in both strength and durability. These types of fillings are suitable for most cavities although for large cavities in teeth that grind and chew our food, namely the rear teeth, an inlay or onlay may be a more suitable option.

Glass Ionomer (GI fillings)

This is probably the least likely type of material to be used to fill a tooth as it offers relatively little strength and would not be suitable for many situations, especially on a biting surface. They are more likely to be used, for example, around the base of the teeth, perhaps to prevent tooth sensitivity. On the plus side, they do bond well with the natural tooth and also release fluoride. Their role is fairly limited though.

In addition to fillings, there are a number of other methods that can be used to restore a damaged or decaying tooth.  These include inlays and onlays, cosmetic bonding and dental crowns

These are the most widely used filling options in UK dental practices then. I hope that it helps you to understand the different uses and why we might recommend a certain type over another. We are always happy, of course, to discuss this with you and explain anything you may not understand.

For general, cosmetic and emergency appointments at the Foxhall Dental Practice, you can call us on 01473 258396.