Your Dental-Filling Options

By Edmond Hewlett, D.D.S. National Spokesperson and Consumer Advisor for the American Dental Association.

Your Dental-Filling Options

Sometimes you may think you’re doing everything right – brushing twice a day and flossing daily – and yet, tooth decay still sneaks in, leaving your dentist to deliver the news no patient ever wants to hear: You have a cavity.

Now it’s time to treat that cavity. That’s where you come in. The good news is that with dentistry’s many advances, diagnosis and treatment are more sophisticated and comfortable than ever. The American Dental Association (ADA) encourages you to talk with your dentist about your cavity treatment options and what’s right for you.

When treating a cavity, your dentist will take many things into account, including:

  • Your oral-health history
  • The size and location of the cavity
  • Your preference in materials (i.e. composite resins, amalgam, etc.)

There are also other considerations, such as:

  • How will this filling look in your mouth?
  • How long will it last?
  • What will your insurance cover?

For my own patients, I usually start the conversation by explaining the different filling options available.

Some common dental-filling options include:

  • Composite resins, or tooth-colored fillings, provide good durability and resistance to fracture in small- to mid-size fillings that need to withstand moderate pressure from chewing. They can be used on either front or back teeth.
  • Dental amalgam fillings, also called silver-colored fillings, are made from a combination of metals that include mercury, silver, tin and copper. This type of filling has been used for more than 100 years and is very durable.
  • Gold fillings, also called inlays or onlays, are composed of an alloy of gold, copper and other metals. While gold has been used in dentistry for more than 1,000 years, its drawback is that it’s very costly.

Not every filling will work for all cavities. Because of its durability, dental amalgam is often the best choice for large cavities or those that occur in the back teeth where a lot of force is needed to chew. Some patients only want natural-looking fillings, making composites the logical choice. If composites won’t work for a cavity, these patients may decide to spend the extra money for an inlay or dental crown.

Remember: When it comes to having a cavity filled, you have the right to discuss with your dentist how you want your cavity treated. Your dentist’s foremost priority is always your health and safety. Although dental amalgam is a safe, commonly used dental material, you may wonder about its mercury content. You can be assured that not a single credible study has shown dental amalgam to cause adverse health effects except in rare instances of allergic reaction. In fact, the ADA, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Food and Drug Administration, and World Health Organization all agree that based on extensive scientific evidence, dental amalgam is a safe and effective cavity-filling material.

If you suspect you have a cavity or your dentist has diagnosed one, you need to get it treated. Cavities can become serious if they are not treated property or treated early. A filling helps prevent the cavity from growing and spreading in the mouth, becoming an even bigger problem. It can be possible to lose teeth from decay and cavities. Ultimately, the best dental filling is no dental filling. Prevention is the best medicine. You can dramatically decrease your risk of cavities and other dental diseases simply by:

  • Brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
  • Flossing daily
  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Visiting the dentist regularly

You can learn more about preventing dental disease and staying mouth healthy for life by visiting MouthHealthy.

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