You may not have thought of this, but dental words are associated with sugar occasionally. Did you know that William Morrison—a dentist, by the way—co-created fairy floss? Morrison (and confectioner John C. Wharton) developed the first fairy floss machine in 1897, some decades before private health insurance took off. Whilst we can only assume that the dentist named fairy ‘floss’ after the dental variety, this leaves unanswered a great conspiracy. Did Morrison create fairy floss to generate cavities, ergo to generate better business for himself?
The plot thickens: Bags of Childhood Happiness, or Dental Business Opportunities?
Cake fillings, on the other hand, are the glue that holds together the layers of your favourite cake. They are the sugary divides separating each segment from the next. They form that sweet splash that does not clash but rather complements the cake-eating experience with accent notes of sweetness. Cake filling, however, is in direct opposition of the dental variety. Its innately sugary composition is cavity-inducing—which is the very thing dental fillings exist to combat.
Look at all that cake filling. Did it make the dental fillings worth it? … Yes. Yes, it did.
Let’s say the only flossing you’ve done has been of the fairy variety—or perhaps you’ve filled up too much on cake filling. You’re experiencing a cavity or tooth decay and need a dental fix. Not to induce choice paralysis, but there are different varieties to choose from. For choice paralysis retardant: in most cases, your dentist should make recommendations based on your situation. There are factors to consider such as appearance, durability, and cost.
Without further ado, here is a breakdown* of the different types of dental fillings. There are five that you can choose from! (*Please note we’re not referring to tooth breakdown, although that is directly related to the topic at hand.)
If you can’t go for gold (and you clearly can’t in this case, because nothing beats a natural tooth), go for silver. Amalgam is that common silver filling that probably sprung to mind when we mentioned dental fillings. A smart amalgamation of silver-copper, zinc, tin, and mercury, amalgam has over a decade’s worth of endurance beneath the weight of your chompers. This durability—coupled with its affordability—make it the most common choice.
You can’t go wrong with a solid second-place silver.
The major downside to amalgam? It is a ‘loud’ colour that will not blend in with your natural teeth. However, the further back your filling is, the less of an issue this will be.
Composite resin will match your tooth colour, but that is the extent of its advantages. This material tends to be used more for dental crowns or for fixing chipped or cracked teeth. If you believe silver will offset your set of pearly whites, then composite resin may be a better option—especially if your filling will be further forward. Nevertheless, composite resin is not as durable as amalgam (especially if used on adult back teeth), and installing such fillings takes more time and money.
Glass-ionomer is a less common material and is used more for fillings below the gumline. These fillings release fluoride, which helps to strengthen the tooth and its surrounding structure. Made from acrylic and glass, this material is significantly less durable than amalgam and composite resin. It’s thought more as a ‘Band-Aid fix’ and is positioned away from the violent, primal action of chewing and biting. Despite its fragility, glass-ionomer fillings are on par with composite resin fillings, cost-wise.
Porcelain is a popular material in the dental world. It is frequently used for dental crowns due to its a) natural white colour and b) stain resistance. Though porcelain crowns are prone to chipping, porcelain fillings are extremely durable and can last at least 15 years. It is significantly more expensive than aforementioned options, but you can think of it as an investment in colour-matched aesthetics and longevity.
Funny to think that we’ll happily sit on the porcelain throne and also install that same material in our mouths.
Make new teeth, but keep the old. One is silver and the other…well, the new ones are gold too. This analogy really backfires when we’re talking about teeth.
When it comes to durability, gold wins out. For this reason (and the fact that it’s literal gold), these fillings can be up to 10 times’ the cost of ye simple silver filling. Furthermore, gold fillings are more complex and need to be placed over at least two appointments. Gold will stick out like a sore thumb and, in this sense, is even more of a disadvantage than amalgam. However, if you want to rock the pirate look (or just boast the literal gold in your teeth), you may view this as an aesthetic advantage.
They say winners are grinners. Win gold in the grinning contest with a solid gold tooth topper.
Gold fillings aren’t for everyone and this material will be subject to varying opinions. However, these fillings are worth their weight in gold (because that’s what they are) and you will be investing in longevity here.
So, which Should I Choose?
As you’ve likely figured out by now, the best dental filling will depend on your unique situation. If you’re short on cash, you may want to invest in the classic amalgam option. If the cavity or decay is further to the front of your mouth, you may want to choose something like composite resin that better resembles natural teeth. If you have cash to burn, why not go all out and splurge on a gold filling? It all comes down to your individual circumstances and preferences. If you’re feeling unsure, speak with your dentist about what might be right for you.