are a restorative treatment, used to improve the appearance and functionality of teeth affected by damage or decay. The filling materials, which can be made from several different substances, help to even out tooth surfaces for more efficient biting and chewing. Dental fillings can last for many years and help keep the tooth looking and functioning at its best.
Composite fillings are made of a glass or quartz filler within a resin medium that produces a tooth-colored material. Also known as filled resins, composites are often used in small to mid-size restorations, as they provide strength, durability and resistance to fracture. In addition, the shade of composite fillings is made to closely match the patient's actual teeth, so that other people will not be aware that dental work has been done.
Glass ionomers are also tooth-colored fillings that are made of a mixture of acrylic and glass, and are most often used in young children, because they release fluoride. This material is weaker than composites and usually lasts less than five years before a replacement is needed.
Amalgam fillings have been used for many years and are considered strong, durable and relatively inexpensive compared to other materials. Although strong and effective, many patients do not choose to use amalgam fillings because the silver color can be visible while eating, speaking or smiling.
During the filling procedure, the tooth is prepared by removing any decay or damage in the area with a dental hand piece or laser. The surface of the tooth is cleaned and prepared for filling. The filling material is placed in the targeted area, where it will be finished and polished to match the appearance of the natural teeth. Dental fillings are placed during a single visit to a dentist's office.
Some patients may require additional support after their filling procedure, such as the placement of a crown, implant or bridge. A root canal may be needed for severely damaged or infected teeth.
The dentist will discuss the filling materials and options with each patient before the procedure to determine the best option.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development