Fillings are one of the most common ways to repair damaged, or infected tooth structure. There are two main types of fillings: Amalgam or Composite.
An amalgam filling is a mixture of silver, mercury, tin, copper and zinc. The mercury binds the other metals together to form a strong material once the silver filling has set. Silver fillings have long-term durability, a relatively low cost and good strength once they have set. They are well suited for teeth that your dentist is unable to keep clean and dry as they set well even in a moist environment.
A composite, or tooth coloured filling is a mixture of a coloured resin with clear glass particles that give it strength. Tooth coloured fillings come in many shades so they very closely match the colour of natural teeth. They are bonded into place and require less removal of healthy tooth structure than silver fillings.
Amalgam and composite fillings each have their own particular advantages and disadvantages, and your dentist can help you decide which type of filling best meets your requirements.
The purpose of a crown is to restore a single damaged tooth. Crowns are usually required when a tooth is so damaged that a filling is a poor option for longevity and strength. If you have teeth that are suffering from severe decay, are cracked or your dentist has determined that they may soon be prone to cracking, a crown may be recommended.
Crowns are custom fitted to match the exact contours of your own tooth and made from ceramic, stainless steel, gold, or in combination as a porcelain fused to metal crown.
Ceramic crowns have no metal component to them – their main advantage lies in their ability to effect the most natural looking tooth repair and achieve the most esthetic result. Modern zirconia crowns have the added benefit of being extremely strong and resistant to chipping.
Metal dental crowns, including gold ones, are not usually placed on those teeth that are visible when a person smiles, such as those closer to the front. Gold crowns are very strong and their rate of wear is actually almost identical to tooth enamel. This means that a gold dental crown does not cause excessive wear and tear on the teeth it bites against. In addition, the use of gold may reduce the amount of tooth that must be removed to create the crown compared to other crowns – this means a stronger tooth.
Due to their content, porcelain fused to metal crowns are stronger than their all-porcelain counterparts, possessing many of the advantages of completely metal crowns. However, the metal content also means they look slightly less natural. These types of crowns also may reveal at least a very thin metal strip at the gum line and although this can usually be hidden beneath the gum itself, this might not always be possible, depending on the individual patient. In some cases, the strip can’t initially be seen, but may become visible later as the gum recedes with age.
Each type has advantages and disadvantages and your dentist will advise you on the best option for your
When teeth only have a mild to moderate amount of decay or structural damage, dental inlays and onlays are often used for restoration work. Inlays and onlays can be made of porcelain, composite resin, or gold.
Dentists recommend dental inlays for teeth suffering from damage or decay in the valleys, grooves or ‘pits’ of the tooth’s chewing surface. Dental onlays are designed to treat damage and deterioration extending to one or more of the cusps or projections on the uppermost chewing surface of the tooth. Onlays can assist in repairing teeth that are at risk from fracture, by covering over the vulnerable top surface of a tooth, where fractures are most likely to originate. In this way, the onlay serves the same purpose as a crown, on a tooth that does not have sufficient deterioration to warrant the actual fitting of a dental crown.
Both inlays and onlays are customized to fit your teeth, so that your dentist is able to bond them securely to the surface of the tooth with high-strength dental resins. The materials used in the fabrication of inlays and onlays are also considerably more durable than that used in conventional fillings. Consequently, inlays and onlays can act as a sound long-term solution to smaller failing dental restorations. They also strengthen the tooth’s structure and create an effective barrier against bacteria to prevent the formation of cavities. The fitting of onlays and inlays is a relatively routine procedure, with a short recovery time. There may be some slight tenderness in the area of your mouth where the inlay was fitted, but you can usually get on with your day as soon as you leave the dentist’s office.
Inlays and onlays can eliminate tooth sensitivity by sealing over dentin, a very sensitive internal part of the tooth. They can also help reduce the risks that patients don’t require more extensive dental treatment, such as bridges, implants or dental crowns, in the future. Most dentists agree that if a tooth’s structure is generally in good shape, it should be preserved as much as possible. The fitting of inlays and onlays involves much less tooth reduction than is the case with metal fillings, so that much more of the tooth’s natural tooth structure is retained following the treatment process.