Why do People Need Fillings?
Fillings are needed when there is decay in the tooth creating a cavity (hole) in the tooth. If this isn’t treated then bacteria can work its way into the tooth leading to infection and disease. If left untreated this becomes more and more painful and may lead to tooth loss if completely left untreated.
It is therefore advisable to do everything you can to avoid dental decay, so please read our oral healthcare advice section in conjunction with this part of our website.
The dental fillings procedure
Types of Dental Fillings & the Filling Materials Used
There are primarily 4 types of dental filling materials commonly used in our dental practice in London Euston, WC1 and most other dental clinics offered these same 4 types of dental filling; these are composite white fillings, porcelain fillings, gold fillings and traditional grey amalgam fillings, we will now take a few moments to look at each of these in turn.
These are the classic silver grey fillings which are so common. These fillings are not as aesthetically pleasing and attractive as their white filling counterparts however, generally speaking, we are able to preserve more of the natural tooth structure if we use an amalgam filling.
Preserving natural tooth is always of key importance to the dentist and this is why many practices continue to use amalgam fillings.
Amalgam fillings do contain mercury however the greatest risk is when your filling is being removed. Many patients ask for amalgam filling removal due to the mercury however it has been shown that most mercury is actually released during the removal process. For this reason, if you decide you want to have amalgams removed, it is best to attend a dental practice that have a special interest in this aspect of dentistry.
Composite or White Fillings
White composite fillings are a model alternative to the old Grey amalgam fillings. Generally speaking these fillings look far more aesthetically pleasing and blend in with the natural teeth around them. One minor problem with white fillings is that they could have a tendency to wear at a higher rate than the surrounding teeth, this means that it is possible that the filling could wear away. The good news however, is that white composite fillings are extremely easy to add onto if this happens.
Composite white fillings are much more popular alternative to amalgam fillings and are increasingly becoming the dental filling of choice in most practices. Certainly in our London dental practice we have noticed that the local people prefer white fillings because they blend in much better with the surrounding teeth.
The proper dental term for these is porcelain inlays however they perform the same function as a filling. Although porcelain sounds as though it is not very strong, this is actually far from the truth. The porcelain inlays that are used in dentistry are in fact made of an extremely high-strength feldspar quartz mixture which, when laminated or bonded onto the tooth, is extremely strong. Think about a laminated windscreen in your car, the individual components are not very strong yet when they are bonded together they become extremely durable. This is the same effect with a porcelain inlay.
We haven’t shown a picture of a porcelain inlay as quite frankly they blend in with the natural tooth so well that you wouldn’t be able to see it, much like a white filling really!
One of the disadvantages of porcelain inlays is that they are not immediate. Amalgam or white composite fillings can be made immediately in the dental chair whilst you are at the practice. Porcelain fillings need to be made by a highly skilled dental technician. This means that once we have removed the decay from your tooth we need to take a dental impression, this is then sent to the dental technician who can then make a porcelain inlay to fit into the cavity.
Whilst you are waiting for the technician to make your new porcelain filling you will be fitted with a temporary filling material. This does have a tendency to stain, especially if you like to eat chicken tikka masala, red wine and drink lots of coffee.
The manufacturing process takes around 1 to 2 weeks and once the porcelain inlay is fitted it should last for many years.
Gold fillings are also not as common nowadays, this is generally due to the cosmetic and aesthetic properties and more recently due to the price of gold! However, from a dental point of view gold is a perfect material. Gold is extremely malleable which means it can be easily formed to fit extremely accurately into the cavity created when we removed the decay. It is also extremely smooth which means that the opposing teeth are not worn away, as can be common with some other materials for fillings.
Gold is also completely inert, so it does not react with the body and is completely accepted by the oral environment without any problem at all. This makes gold one of the best materials to make use in your mouth from a purely scientific point of view, we do however realise that not everybody wants to have gold in their mouths!
Dental fillings after-care
This really depends upon the type of filling that you had as to exactly how you need to look after it. The general rule is to be gentle on the tooth for a few days. Most of the time when decay is removed this can be traumatic to the tooth, and so eating soft foods for a day or two and avoiding extremely hot or cold food will always be kinder to your tooth.
If you have had a porcelain inlay which has been bonded to your tooth it may also take a few hours for the bonding glue to totally set, so we advise that you avoid extremely chewy foods also for a few days after having a dental filling.
At our London based dental practice in the heart of Euston, WC1 we offer a range of dental fillings to suit your clinical situation, aesthetic requirements and budget. The best thing to do is to request an appointment or complete the form to the right hand side of this page or pop in to see us.