One of the most common types of dental restorations are called fillings. These are different types of materials that are placed in teeth to fill cavities and repair small defects in teeth. The most common types are silver amalgam and tooth colored resin composite.
Amalgam is a mixture of mostly silver and mercury and has been used for many years as a filling material. When used properly these types of fillings can last a reasonable length of time. After a few years they can break down at the edges, discolor teeth and fracture. Used properly, in smaller restorations, amalgam can be a good choice for some fillings.
Resin composite is a relatively new material and is used by many dentists to fill teeth. These types of materials are very popular since they come in colors that mimic natural teeth but they have certain drawbacks. They are more difficult for the dentist to place, may cause some post-operative sensitivity, and have a relatively short lifespan before they need to be replaced. They cannot be used for anything too big and can fracture more easily than amalgam. In our practice these are mostly used on front teeth only to restore small cavities when the teeth do not need veneers or crowns.
Gold foil or direct gold is the oldest type of filling material available and in some situations can last the lifetime of the patient. Pure gold can be placed in one visit in small cavities and will last longer than any other filling material.
When indicated, gold foil can be placed on the sides of teeth and can last the patient's lifetime. These small fillings are not visible in normal function.
Sometimes teeth have cavities on the side below the gumline. This is a good place for gold foil if a lifetime restoration is desired. Since gold foil is the most biocompatible material we use, the gums grow very well around the gold without any irritation.
Bonding is the application of composite resin to teeth to fill small cavities or fill spaces. In this case after tooth whitening the teeth were bonded to close the spaces and also lengthen the edges.
Patient with blemished front tooth
Blemish was corrected with direct bonding.
Patient had short front teeth
Two teeth were lengthened with bonded resin composite.
Old worn amalgam fillings
Sometimes larger fillings are replaced with cast gold inlays for strength and longevity.