Almost every American has a dental filling, and most of us received a filling at a very young age. Dental fillings are most commonly known for their use of preventing or to treating cavities. You know how your parents told you to lay off the candy? It was because they didn’t want to have to pay the dentist to fill all those cavities, but those sour straws and gummy worms sure tasted good at the time! Also, dealing with a sugar high kid is probably not a parent’s idea of fun.
In the past, the most common dental fillings were gold and silver amalgam. Silver amalgam is a mixture of silver, zinc, tin, copper, and mercury. That’s right… mercury. Because of the toxicity of mercury, dentists are now using dental composites and porcelain. Even though these fillings are more expensive, they are much safer and don’t have the mad hatter side effects.
Many patients are now opting to have unsightly, toxic silver amalgam dental fillings replaced with porcelain or composite fillings. This not only enhances the visual aesthetics of the tooth, it also removes the toxic amalgam filling. However, the removal and replacement procedure of silver amalgam fillings must be carefully completed by a dental filling specialist.
Uses For A Dental Filling
It is also known as a type of “dental restoration” because many are implemented in order to maintain, or save, the integrity of the tooth/teeth. In order to treat a cavity, your dentist has to remove the decayed part of the tooth. In the case of a cracked, or worn, tooth, the damaged portion of the tooth can be repaired via a filing. This is commonly completed during a root canal, when a dental filling replaces the removed dental pulp, so there is not a leftover, empty space.
Another well known use is repairing worn down teeth (perhaps due to age, diet, or teeth grinding). The filling is placed over the worn areas of the tooth, protecting the underlying sensitive areas and nerves. They are used as protection, replacement, and aesthetic purposes.
As with any dental procedure, the affected tooth must be prepared for the filling. The filling use will determine the intensity and length of the dental procedure. The type and category of dental fillings are divided into 6 classes, from Class I to Class VI. The classes designate the area of the tooth, direction of the filling, type of tooth, and type of filling.
In general, there are two types of preparations:
Intracoronal – Intracoronal Preparations are used to retain the filling inside of the crown of the tooth. This preparation is most commonly used in cavity restoration.
Extracoronal – Extracoronal Preparations are instituted as a foundation on which a filling will be deposited in order to renew the structural integrity of a tooth. These are commonly used in crowns and veneers.
Hopefully this will explain what dental fillings are and when you should have them replaced.