When decay has eaten away at the tooth a hole remains. The dentist needs to remove the decay and fill the remaining hole produced, hence the term ‘filling’. Today there are basically two types of filling, ‘silver’ or amalgam fillings and ‘white’ or composite fillings.
White Filling – Composite/ Ceramic
These materials are used in the front of the mouth or for smaller fillings on the molar teeth. They are available in many shades which allows the dentist to match to the tooth which is being filled. These fillings may cause teeth to be sensitive afterwards as they shrink when setting. For this reason they are best avoided in large cavities in back teeth.
Silver Filling – Amalgam
Most people in Ireland will have an amalgam or silver filling in their mouth. Dental amalgam is a mixture of mercury, silver, tin and copper. Dentists often prefer dental amalgam because it is easier to work with than other alternatives. Amalgam is generally considered stronger than resin-based composite, and therefore more widely used for back teeth fillings. Many patients prefer dental amalgam for the same reasons, plus its cost-effectiveness and ability to fill cavities quickly. Although recently the natural aesthetic look of white fillings has become more popular, and we are finding that patients are requesting white composite or ceramic fillings more often.
Patients often attend the dentist at short notice or without appointments. If a patient has lost a filling or is in pain, a temporary filling material allows the dentist to rapidly place a restoration which will protect the tooth from hot drinks, cold air and bacterial invasion.