If it’s been too many years to count since you’ve last had a cavity filled, you may be surprised at the variety of dental filling options available today. Unfortunately, many adults who have gone decades without a new cavity may now be experiencing the failure of some of their old amalgams (metal fillings) and don’t realize there are new and better alternatives out there.
Believe it or not, although some patients have sustained their original metal fillings for upwards of 10, 20 or even 30 years, traditional amalgams are only meant to last an average of about 12 years. So consider yourself lucky if your fillings have lasted way past their prime.
Although some dentists still use amalgams to fill cavities, many now prefer to use a composite material, porcelain or even gold to do the job. Amalgam is an alloy of mercury mixed with additional metals such as silver, tin, copper and other trace metals, and was at one time the predominant material used to fill cavities. Research has been conducted on the negative health effects of the mercury contained in amalgams, but concern has generally been unfounded due to the small amount of exposure. Even though you may not need to have all of your old metal fillings replaced with an alternative material, you may consider using a composite resin or porcelain filling when an old amalgam no longer functions and needs to be replaced or when you have a new cavity that needs to be filled.
Metal fillings require the destruction of more tooth structure than alternative dental filling materials. In many cases, healthy portions of the tooth are removed in order to make the space big enough to hold the metal material. For this reason, along with the controversy regarding mercury content and the poor aesthetic quality of metal fillings, most modern dental professionals prefer to use a variety of other materials for dental fillings and restorations.
Although some patients prefer gold, this material can be rather expensive and is still quite noticeable due to its yellow color. With more natural tooth-colored options available today, most dentists and patients alike are opting for composite resin or porcelain fillings. Tooth-colored composites have proven to be durable, but not quite as durable as traditional materials. They tend to last about half of the expected duration of amalgams on average, but because of the versatility of the resin material in its use for additional treatments, such as repair of a chipped or worn tooth, the ability to remove less of the natural tooth structure during preparation and a more aesthetically pleasing appearance, composites have become very popular.
Porcelain fillings are thought to be one of the best options available today. Because the ceramic material offers most of the same benefits as composite resin but is more resistant to staining and lasts longer than amalgam (more than 15 years), porcelain may be the right option for your dental needs. Speak to your dentist about the various materials and discuss which treatment option is right for you.
For more information about the treatment of cavities and the various dental filling options available at Gentle Dental in Queens, call 718-461-0100.