Dental fillings are used in a number of situations. Most commonly, dental fillings are used to fill cavities. But they can also useful for cosmetic purposes such as:
- Repair small cracks and chips
- Rebuild worn edges
- Fill small gaps between teeth
- Correct minor discoloration
- Fill cavities
There are several different types of dental fillings. Dr. McCool can help you decide which material is best for your situation and dental goals.
Inlay vs. Onlay
Inlays and onlays are terms associated with dental fillings used to describe the extent of the restoration. An inlay is a filling that lies within the cusps (bumps) on the chewing surface of the tooth. An onlay is more extensive, covering one or more cusps. Onlays are sometimes called partial crowns.
Gold is one of the best choices for a dental filling. The gold alloy that is used in dental restorations was developed to match the physical properties of natural tooth enamel. For this reason, gold fillings are extremely comfortable and long lasting.
Gold fillings offer a tight seal on teeth and are resistant to chipping or breaking. Another benefit of gold fillings is that they do not tarnish or corrode and will not discolor teeth.
Porcelain fillings are similar to gold fillings, except that they offer a more natural looking restoration because the ceramic material matches the color of teeth. Porcelain fillings can be used on any teeth, but are especially suited for teeth in the smile zone.
Porcelain fillings have evolved to become very durable – sometimes lasting up to 30 years. They are easy to clean, not likely to discolor, and offer superior protection to the weak areas of the tooth.
Composite Resin (White Fillings)
Composite resin (or white) fillings are made to mimic the color of your natural teeth. They are preferable in the front or visible areas of the smile because the composite material is virtually indistinguishable from your existing teeth.
Composite fillings are bonded to your tooth structure for greater durability. Though they are not as long-lasting as other types of fillings, composite fillings will last many years or more with proper care and maintenance.
In most cases, little or no existing tooth structure needs to be removed to install a composite resin filling compared to gold, porcelain or amalgam (silver) fillings, preserving more of the natural tooth.
Amalgam Fillings (Silver Fillings)
Amalgam, or silver fillings, are durable and usually outlast composite fillings. They are generally used for the back teeth because they can last through the force of chewing and are not visible.
Silver fillings are less expensive than other types of fillings, but generally require more of the existing tooth structure to be removed to accommodate the filling. Silver fillings may be more likely to crack or fracture. And they are not nearly as comfortable or attractive as other types of dental fillings.