If you need a filling in Harriman or surrounding areas of Orange County, NY, then it’s important to understand what kinds of fillings you can get. These days you will usually be offered one of four different types of fillings.
Metal Amalgam Fillings
Metal amalgam fillings are an old solution to the problem of how to get an affordable, long-lasting filling material. Of course, “long-lasting” had a different meaning when many people lost all their teeth in their 30s or 40s and nobody expected to keep their teeth for a lifetime.
Metal amalgam is an ingenious solution: you take many different metal powders and mix them with liquid mercury to make a firm paste. Then you shove as much of that paste into the drilled-out cavity as you can fit. The amalgam gets very solid after a while–it can actually be harder than your teeth.
But although it’s cheap, metal amalgam has some drawbacks. It starts out silver and will often turn black in the tooth, so it doesn’t look good. The metal amalgam responds very differently to heat or cold than your natural teeth, so the filling can shrink–creating space between filling and tooth–or expand–cracking the tooth. And then there’s the question of mercury in the filling. When lead was routinely used in pipes this may not have seemed a big issue, but now many people look at mercury fillings differently.
Gold fillings are still used in dentistry, and they do have some advantages. Gold is a noble metal, so it won’t corrode. It is also very durable: these fillings can last for decades. Gold fillings are placed in the same way as metal amalgam: the gold foil is essentially pressed into the drilled cavity until it’s, well, filled.
But gold fillings have the same problems as always. First, they’re expensive. And they’re obvious: people will see your fillings. When you put those two factors together, few people want to pay a lot to advertise their tooth decay. And because gold is a great conductor, it can sometimes make your teeth sensitive to temperature changes.
Composite fillings are the most common tooth-colored fillings used today. They come in many different forms, but all of them are a resin (plastic) with inclusions of a harder material, typically a ceramic, to add strength.
Composite fillings start out as a soft paste that can flow into a prepared cavity. They harden when exposed to a special catalyst light (a blue light that you might think is a laser, but it’s not). Composite fillings are inexpensive, easy to work, and they can be matched to the natural color of your tooth. That way, your cavities are your secret. They can be placed in even very small cavities, which can preserve more of your natural tooth material. They’re good insulators, and they can actually create a seal with your natural tooth to keep out liquid and bacteria.
But composite fillings do have some drawbacks. They’re not as strong or durable as other filling types. In some situations, they’re more likely to wear out early. And these fillings can stain. They may start out the same color as your natural teeth, but if you have a coffee, tea, or wine habit, your fillings may soon stand out.
Ceramic Inlays and Onlays
Ceramic inlays and onlays are the most advanced fillings used in dentistry these days. These fillings are sometimes described as “porcelain” because of the color and fineness of their appearance, but modern ceramic fillings are made of advanced materials that are highly durable. Some studies show they’re more durable than gold! Ceramic fillings look the most like your natural teeth: they’re essentially indistinguishable. And they’re highly resistant to stains, so when they’re properly cared for they can keep their attractive appearance.
But ceramic inlays and onlays are more expensive than composite fillings. And they can take longer to place than other fillings–they often require a second appointment to get placed.