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What Are The Best Types of Tooth Filling In Houston, TX?

When dental cavities strike, you want to make sure you have the right filling for the job.

By Jennifer
Photography by Pete

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Dental cavities are one of the most common forms of dental disease. While you can fix earlier tooth decay with brushing, flossing, and fluoride, cavities will require professional treatment. It is always better to treat cavities sooner rather than later. Otherwise, the damage to your tooth will go unchecked until it eventually puts your tooth’s life at risk. With smaller cavities, only a dental filling is needed. During this procedure, the tooth’s decayed tissues are removed before being rebuilt with a filling material.

Types of Dental Fillings

There are several different materials that a dentist can use for a cavity filling, some of which are relatively new advancements and others that have fallen behind in recent years. What are the different filling materials?

Dental Composite Resins

Most fillings we perform are composite fillings. Dental composite uses a liquid resin made of plastic and silica, which can be designed to match the precise shade of your tooth. These white fillings look like natural enamel, allowing them to blend in with your natural smile. They are also one of the most conservative filling options. They require less of the tooth to be prepared to fit them in place, keeping the tooth in better and healthier shape. Plus, a dentist can use composite to repair teeth from more than just cavities.

Composite fillings are applied in layers rather than all at once. Once each layer is placed, the liquid resin is hardened with UV light. The composite bonds to the tooth itself, reinforcing and strengthening them both. By building them up like this, you can leave your appointment with your tooth fully settled. There’s no wait time before eating or drinking anything like there is with other fillings, like silver amalgam. (We still recommend waiting until the local anesthetic wears off to prevent you from accidentally biting your tongue or burning your mouth without realizing it.)

Silver Amalgam

Amalgam is one of the oldest tooth filling materials, having been around since the early 19th century. It uses a mixture of silver, tin, copper, and liquid mercury. However, it has largely fallen out of fashion in recent years. While silver fillings can last up to 10 or 15 years on average and are among the most affordable, they have several drawbacks that make them unpopular. Our dentists at Nu Dentistry don’t use them at all.

The most obvious reason is that their metal look makes them easy to spot, ruining your smile’s natural appearance. Amalgam is also 50% mercury, which can understandably create health concerns for patients and dentists alike. While studies have shown this content is still minimal enough to be safe, amalgam still poses a risk to your dental health. Amalgam fillings are prone to expanding and contracting when exposed to hot and cold foods and drinks. Since the tooth doesn’t expand and contract with the filling, it can crack and fracture over time.

Ceramic

Ceramic fillings are made of porcelain designed to look like natural enamel. Like composite, these fillings can often appear invisible against the rest of your tooth. They’re sturdier than composite, helping them last longer. Compared to composite, porcelain fillings are also more resistant to staining and discoloration. Since they can last a decade or more, this can be incredibly helpful if you have a habit of drinking coffee and tea or eating dark or colorful foods. However, they can potentially crack or chip under too much pressure. Porcelain fillings are also more costly than composite ones.

Gold

In some cases, a dentist may use a gold dental filling. Gold shares amalgam’s longevity advantage without the same potential dental problems like cracked and broken teeth. With good care, these fillings can often last two or three times longer than other fillings. While not natural-looking, gold is often seen as more aesthetic than amalgam fillings. Gold also won’t crack or break, and it is also malleable enough to be made precisely to your tooth’s shape and needs.

However, gold fillings often take two visits to complete as the dentist will need to take an impression of your tooth and send it off to a lab. In the meantime, a temporary filling will need to be placed while the permanent one is being made. Gold fillings also have a higher cost. However, their long lifespan often makes them an excellent investment for patients who choose them.

Which Tooth Filling Is Best?

Composite fillings are the most popular type of filling for a reason. The top reason is that they are the most natural-looking. With multiple shades available, our dentists can choose the best color to match the rest of the tooth perfectly. That’s why dental composite is also used in cosmetic procedures like dental bonding to change a tooth’s appearance. While porcelain fillings appear realistic, they’re also more costly. And as already stated, more traditional fillings materials are obvious to spot.

Composite fillings are also more biocompatible than silver. The mouth accepts them much more readily, and there is little to no chance of an allergic reaction like with metal fillings. Plus, there’s no worrying mercury content to make patients nervous. Composite resin has the additional advantage of bonding to the tooth’s structure for greater support. It is also a more conservative option and saves more of the original tooth in the process. And unlike both gold and porcelain fillings, composite can be placed and hardened in a single appointment.

Is It A Good Idea To Replace Silver Fillings?

You should always consult one of our dentists first before replacing any silver fillings. In general, we will switch out amalgam for composite for these reasons:

  • Aesthetics. Some patients don’t want to deal with the metallic look of amalgam fillings, and composite fillings are the easiest fix. Porcelain is another excellent alternative with larger fillings or back teeth that take a lot of pressure daily.
  • Damaged Tooth. If the filling expands and damages your tooth, you should have it replaced with one that keeps your tooth safer and healthier. Replacing these fillings also helps prevent further damage and dental decay.
  • Age. While silver fillings can last more than a decade, they can eventually become loose. Before they fall out or risk tooth infection, you should have them replaced.

Cavity Filling Cost

In general, composite fillings are the least costly fillings performed at our Houston dental office. Porcelain and gold are more expensive, but their durability typically makes them a worthwhile investment. However, the cost of your dental filling depends on several other factors besides filling materials, including:

  • The tooth’s location
  • The size of the cavity
  • Your dental insurance

Most dental insurance plans provide most of a cavity filling’s cost, though how much may vary by provider. Typically, plans cover about 70 to 80%. At Nu Dentistry, we accept all PPO provider plans. However, we also offer alternative financing to ensure your treatments are always affordable, with or without dental insurance. If you have any questions about your cavity filling cost, feel free to schedule a consultation with our team to discuss your options.

Do You Need A Filling?

Early tooth decay before a cavity forms doesn’t need professional treatment. You can entirely reverse the damage yourself with excellent dental hygiene and fluoride treatment. However, once dental decay starts wearing through the enamel’s surface, you will need a filling. What does tooth decay look like? At first, tooth decay can create white spots on the tooth’s surface as the enamel is weakened and demineralized. Once a cavity appears, you will notice those spots darkening and forming a visible pit in the tooth’s surface. Other symptoms will appear as the cavity gradually deepens:

  • Toothache, which may be persistent or come and go
  • Tooth sensitivity to hot and cold foods
  • Lingering sensitivity to sweets
  • Chronic bad breath (halitosis)
  • Cavity pain when biting down
  • Pimple on the gums
  • Tooth suddenly becoming numb

The earlier you seek professional care, the easier and more conservative your treatment will be. A small surface cavity can quickly spread until it needs more extensive tooth decay treatment than a simple filling, such as a dental crown or root canal. In worst-case scenarios, even a root canal may not be capable of saving your tooth, and the tooth may require extraction instead. Our dentists want to keep your natural smile as healthy and whole as possible, ensuring your dental cavity care is as simple and stress-free as possible.

At Nu Dentistry, our dedicated team is here to help you with the urgent cavity treatment you need. If you recognize these late-stage tooth decay symptoms, please don’t hesitate to call our dental office today and schedule an appointment.

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