Dental Fillings

stockton dental fillings - two people who have had composite restorations for their cavitiesDental fillings are used to repair a tooth that has a cavity or a crack, or in some cases a fracture.  The most commonly used material for this purpose is “composite”.  It is a resin, a synthetic material, that resembles the natural color and texture of tooth enamel.  Fillings of this kind are also called composite restorations, or “tooth colored” restorations.

Years ago, the typical options for dental fillings were either “silver fillings” (amalgam fillings) or gold fillings.  These materials –  though highly durable –  were unaesthetic.  If you developed a cavity on a visible area of the tooth, the filling was unfortunately noticeable. And the safety of amalgam has been debated because of the mercury vapor this substance can produce.

Today, composite fillings allow the dentist to restore the shape and structural integrity of the tooth while maintaining the natural look and feel of the enamel. The procedure takes under an hour, and it’s one of the most common restorations we do in our office.  The photo below is a picture of a tooth that has been filled with composite and matches the natural tooth color.

composite dental fillings match natural tooth colorComposite dental fillings are fairly durable and can last up 10 years; however, larger fillings where a significant amount of the tooth enamel has been removed, will have a shorter life span.  In these cases, an inlay/onlay or a porcelain crown may be the best option.

Indirect Dental Fillings

An indirect dental filling is used when a tooth cannot be adequately restored with a direct filling such as the ones mentioned above.  With direct fillings, the filling material is applied straight onto the tooth, and the filling is sculpted inside the mouth.

With indirect dental fillings, an impression of the teeth is taken, and the impression is used as a mold to sculpt the restorative.  Porcelain is the most commonly used material, but gold or composite can also be used.  The filling is then permanently bonded/cemented in place.

Inlays, onlays, and dental crowns are all examples of indirect dental fillings.  We have a separate page devoted to dental crowns, so we will briefly explain inlays and onlays.

An inlay can be used to fill a tooth that cannot be adequately restored with a direct filling – but the tooth may not need a full dental crown either.  An inlay fits “inside” the tooth.  An onlay differs only to the extent that it covers a cusp or cusps of the tooth.  An onlay is laid “on top” of the tooth.  An onlay is a good choice for repairing a cracked or fractured tooth that does not require a crown.