Do you have a cavity that needs to be filled? You may be wondering about the types of fillings are available and which one is right for you.
To first understand how to pick the best filling, it’s important to know what makes them different from one another. Here’s a summary:
- Temporary Fillings — If you’re in pain and need to have larger treatments like a root canal or crown, a temporary filling can buy you time. Most temporary fillings contain analgesic medication to alleviate pain. You may need one if you’re about to start on antibiotics for an infection, or after a root canal while your new crown is being made. One thing is for certain though, temporary fillings are just that…only temporary.
- Silver (Amalgam) Fillings — Amalgam restorations have been used in dentistry for years. They contain an alloy of different metals, all of which work together to make the filling durable for several years. Unfortunately, they do have some disadvantages. While they may be the longest lasting, silver fillings also require extra tooth structure to be removed to hold them in place. A small “wedge” is cut into the tooth and the amalgam hardens in the area, becoming fixed into place.
- On a side note, amalgam fillings also contain mercury. While experts still disagree as to whether or not mercury fillings are extremely safe or harmful, it’s a personal decision that you’ll have to discuss with your dentist.
- White Composite Dental Fillings — When you need fillings that will match the tooth they’re in, a composite one is the answer. These white restorations come in different shades, allowing your dentist to choose one that’s not noticeable against your enamel. Although they were once categorized as more of a cosmetic treatment that was more expensive than metal fillings, that’s not as much the case anymore.
An added benefit of white fillings is that they bond directly with your enamel, allowing them to adhere to areas that a silver filling can’t, requiring less alteration to the healthy enamel surrounding your cavity.
Shoot for Smaller Fillings
The smaller the filling, the better it is for your tooth. Larger fillings are obviously useful, but the goal is to treat cavities at an earlier stage, making the restoration (filling) less invasive. This preserves the maximum amount of tooth structure possible so that your bite’s integrity won’t be compromised.
Smaller fillings are achieved by diagnosing cavities sooner, through regularly scheduled exams and x-rays. They’re also possible by using materials that bond naturally to your teeth — like composite resin — to allow less alteration to the tooth underneath.
Choose a Filling that Strengthens Your Tooth
Apart from their size, the materials that your filling is made from can also strengthen or weaken your tooth. Certain types of white fillings actually release fluoride in the years after placement, protecting the tooth around it. That’s because recurrent decay is very common along the margins of most fillings (meaning that new decay develops in the space between older fillings and the tooth.) But when fluoride is consistently leached into the area, the tooth is less likely to get a new cavity around the filling.
The Filling You Get Sooner, Rather than Later
A quality filling will do one job: protect your tooth. Putting it off means that the cavity can get larger, and the tooth around it can crack or break apart. By that point, there’s no longer an option to get a filling at all; you’ll need a crown to cover the tooth entirely. You might even need a root canal, too.
The sooner your tooth is filled, the smaller the filling will be. Not only that, but the treatment will cost less. That’s because fillings are priced on the materials they’re made from and their size.
If you have dental insurance, it’s best to take advantage of the coverage you’re entitled to and get the tooth treated sooner. Schedule your treatment before the end of the year, when benefits expire and reset.
But what if you don’t have dental insurance at all? An affordable alternative to consider is a California dental savings plan. The discount programs at Cal Dental Plans cover 10-60% on basic dental treatments like exams, cleanings, and you guessed it… fillings.
Ready to learn more about how a discount dental plan or traditional insurance policy can help you save on that next filling? Talk to the Cal Dental Plans experts today.