Fillings vary in complexity and material. Some are direct fillings, placed “directly” in a cavity, although others are indirect, wherein an impression of the tooth is taken and a custom filling is created to fit around it. If your dentist suggests a tooth restoration, knowing what’s available can help you make the best choice for your mouth.
You might think of amalgam fillings for teeth as a classic option. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), dentists have been using this type of filling for more than 150 years. As the name suggests, amalgam fillings are made up of a mixture of metals. They typically contain about 50 percent mercury, along with tin, copper, silver or zinc. Compared to other types, amalgam fillings have a few things going for them: They are the least pricey option, and they’re also very strong and long-lasting.
Amalgam fillings aren’t without drawbacks, though. They’re silver in color to start and tend to become darker with time, meaning they are a fairly conspicuous item when you open your mouth.
A composite tooth filling, typically made of powdered glass and acrylic resin, offers a few advantages over an amalgam filling. For one, the filling can be shaded to match the color of a person’s existing teeth, making it much less visible. As more people want natural-looking smiles, composite fillings have become increasingly popular.
When it comes to dental fillings, you can do much worse than gold. It’s one of the most durable and long-lasting options, with the ADA noting that it can remain effective for more than two decades. Of course, that durability comes at a price, as gold fillings are among the most expensive. They’re usually indirect fillings, as well, so you’ll need to spend more time in a dentist’s chair to receive one.
Porcelain fillings are similar to gold. They are a form of indirect filling, usually require more than one visit to the dentist and tend to be pricey. However, they’re also different from gold fillings in a few important way: On the one hand, they are much more fragile. On the other, they look like actual teeth and can help you maintain a natural appearance.