All You Need to Know About Dental Fillings, the Most Effective Cavity Treatment

A tooth filling is one of the most common dental procedures in the world. It’s used to treat cavities or cracked and worn-down teeth.

Small cavities do not hurt, but if ignored, can become large and painful, leading toward the possible need for more complex dental procedures. This build-up of bacteria can get into the pulp of the tooth, where blood supply and nerves are, and irritate the nerve, leading to the need of root canal treatment. If ignored long enough, the infection could spread to the surrounding bone of the tooth and even result in loosening of the tooth.

A dental filling is a straightforward procedure through which dentists treat cavities. This procedure removes the decayed tooth structure and restores it with a filling material. There are different types of filling materials, which will be discussed in a later part of this article.

It’s said that the average American adult has up to three fillings in their mouth. That said, very few people truly understand the procedure behind a dental filling. So how do they work? And what are dental fillings made of?

What Are Dental Fillings?

Dental fillings are used to fill up a cavity or repair a chipped tooth. They could be made up of certain metals, plastics, glass, or any combination of the three.

There are several types of dental fillings, each with its pros and cons related to cost, longevity, and the condition you are looking to treat.

What Are Dental Fillings

What Is the Procedure?

Once a dentist has properly examined the extent of the cavities on an X-ray, they will recommend the most appropriate treatment.

In most cases, the first stage is removing the tooth decay, often done under the effects of a local anesthetic. When the decay is all cleared out, the dentist will make space for the filling materials. The filling is then applied via multiple layers before it is hardened, smoothed and polished.

Types of Dental Fillings

As mentioned earlier, there are several types of teeth fillings a dentist can use to fix cavities.

Here are the most common filling materials and their pros and cons:

Gold Fillings

Gold has been one of the most common types of cavity fillings for hundreds of years.

For many, the biggest benefit of gold is its aesthetic appeal. For tooth health, gold works well because it is a long-lasting and strong material. The average gold can last for several decades.

However, it is significantly more expensive than other filling options and the esthetics are a concern to most. It also requires more than one visit to perform this procedure.

Silver Amalgams

Another very common filling material is an amalgam of silver, mercury, and other metals. This blend is highly durable, which is why it is commonly used to fill up cavities in the molars. They are the most affordable among all types of teeth fillings and last as long as 10 to 15 years.

Amalgam fillings take up a lot of space in the tooth and in extreme cases, may harm other perfectly healthy teeth. They are also prone to discoloration. Cracks and fractures may form with time or when often exposed to hot and cold liquids.

Silver Amalgams

Composite Fillings

Of the various types of fillings for cavities, composite fillings have the closest resemblance to natural teeth. They are made from a blend of plastic and resin and are hardened when placed in the mouth with a bright curing light.

Composite fillings provide additional support to the tooth and can be used to treat a wide range of dental conditions. They are also customized to match the color of neighboring natural teeth.

Note that they are almost twice as expensive as amalgam fillings and don’t last as long. The average composite filling needs to be replaced in 5 to 10 years.

Ceramic Fillings

Another long-lasting option offered by some dental practices in Los Angeles is a ceramic filling. They are made of porcelain, which can be customized for any tooth color.

Porcelain is naturally more resistant to staining than other types of cavity fillings. However, they can cost as much as a solid gold filling.

Glass Ionomer

Of all the different types of fillings, glass ionomers are most commonly placed in young children whose teeth are still growing. They are made of acrylic and a certain type of glass. These fillings release fluoride, which helps protect teeth from further decay.

These fillings can be as expensive as composite resin but are more likely to fracture and don’t match teeth color as seamlessly. The average lifespan of a glass ionomer filling is about five years.

Glass Ionomer

Here are some main takeaways:

  • Most durable: Gold fillings are the most durable among all types of tooth fillings, as they can last for several decades.
  • Most aesthetically pleasing: Composite fillings come the closest to matching natural teeth color.
  • Most affordable: Amalgam fillings cost less than other filling materials and last almost as long as gold fillings.
  • Most stain-resistant: Ceramic fillings are the least likely to stain over time.
  • Tooth Filling Aftercare

    All types of dental fillers are effective at plugging up cavities, countering tooth decay, and fixing cracks in teeth. The only difference concerns cost, filling materials, aesthetics, and durability.

    With the proper aftercare, it’s possible to improve the lifespan of any kind of dental filling. It involves these best practices:

  • Following good oral hygiene habits, including using antibacterial mouthwash a few times a week.
  • Brushing with a high-quality fluoride toothpaste.
  • Scheduling regular visits to the dentist—we recommend at least twice a year.
  • Flossing at least once every day.
  • Immediately after a dentist fixes a cavity with a tooth filling, you may feel some sensitivity to certain foods or temperatures. This should subside within a couple of weeks.

    However, if it lasts over a month after the procedure, consider visiting our dental clinic in Los Angeles to get to the bottom of the issue.

    Tooth Filling Aftercare

    The Bottom Line

    Hopefully, all your dental queries have been answered, and you have a better idea of the different types of tooth fillings. At the end of the day, only a dental professional can determine which filling materials are right for you.

    At Valley Dental Spa, we have performed many dental filling procedures over the years. Our experts employ the strictest standards of quality and use the latest technology to ensure our patients always leave with a comfortable and confident smile.

    Contact Valley Dental Spa today to see how we can help you!

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