Tooth Fillings in Jonesboro, AR
Tooth fillings are by far the most well known way to fix a broken or decayed tooth. Possibly other than “having your teeth cleaned,” nothing is more closely linked to dentists than “getting a filling.” Fillings come in many different materials, shapes, and colors, but we need to discuss what is primarily responsible for you needing a filling in the first place, namely cavities, before we talk about fillings.
What is a cavity?
A cavity is a bacterial infection with one goal: eating its way to the nerve and killing your tooth. Cavities, or tooth decay, are the second most common infection affecting people, trailing only the common cold.
Cavities begin when bacteria gather together to form the slimy plaque that you brush and floss off your teeth twice a day. When plaque is not cleaned away, the bacteria combine with acid and food to eat away at the enamel of your tooth. This is the starting line for the one-way race to the nerve of your tooth.
Once a cavity has started in a tooth, no amount of brushing and flossing will stop it. At that point we must remove the bacteria, along with decayed tooth, and fill the space before it causes more severe damage. Fillings are done with either white (bonded) filling or metal (amalgam) fillings.
White “bonded” fillings
If you have chipped a front tooth or have a small cavity, then you will be candidate for a white (bonded) filling. White fillings are used exclusively to fix front teeth that show when you talk or smile. Most back tooth fillings are done using bonded white fillings as well.
The main advantage to white fillings, from your viewpoint, is that it looks like a natural tooth. We achieve this by color-matching the filling material to your natural tooth color. Dentists prefer white fillings because they actually bond to the tooth. Dental bonding means removing less good tooth to hold in the filling. Bonding also uses chemical bonds to reinforce the tooth. The inability to replace large areas of chewing surface is the only real disadvantage to white fillings. To repair large cavities or fractured teeth, either a crown or metal filling will be the longest-lasting solution.
We use white filling to do cosmetic dental bonding, as well. Dental bonding can close small spaces between front teeth. It can also be used to make minor changes in the shape of front teeth to achieve a desired aesthetic result. In some cases, this is much more conservative than using a porcelain veneer. Check out our cosmetic dentistry page, or ask your doctor at your next visit, for more information.
Silver “amalgam” fillings
Before a bonded filling becomes strong and predictable enough for back teeth, silver fillings were only practical for a tooth with a small cavity. Although not as pretty as a bonded filling, metal fillings do have their place in dental care.
Advantages of metal fillings include:
- Metal fillings are generally stronger and will work in larger fillings than bonded fillings.
- Metal fillings aren’t as technique-sensitive and can be used in areas that are hard to keep dry for bonding.
- Metal fillings will last longer in mouths with below-average oral hygiene. This makes them optimal in some children and the developmentally disabled.
Disadvantages of metal fillings are:
- They require removal of healthy tooth in small cavities to mechanically hold them in.
- They aren’t very pretty. When they are placed they are silver, tending to get darker and stain the surrounding tooth as they age.
- The tooth holding them in usually breaks when they fail. This results in the tooth needing a crown instead of a new filling.
Metal fillings are not dangerous to your health. No matter what Dr. Oz or any other media outlet has said, metal fillings have never been shown to be harmful to someone’s health. Although it is not our preferred method of filling, there are cases where it is the best solution. Feel confident that we will always treat you as we would our family and never use a material that is not proven to be safe. If you have any questions about this, please ask your doctor at your next visit.
Is it time for a cleaning and check-up? Call our office today to schedule your next appointment with Jonesboro dentists Drs. Brett Burris and Lauren Harmon.