Dental Fillings FAQ

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Are dental fillings permanent?

Fillings are not, realistically, permanent due to the wear and tear of forces in the mouth. The materials used for fillings have been gold, silver, or white composite as well as porcelain. There are pros and cons associated with each that could range from cost to longevity to esthetic considerations or preparation limitations/requirements.

If I have an old silver filling, does it need to be replaced?

Silver or mercury fillings (a.k.a. metal or amalgam) have long been a controversial topic in dentistry. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there is no truly safe level of mercury exposure. Per the records available, the first amalgam filling was placed in 1819 at a time when the toxicity associated with mercury was not well known. While there are ongoing debates over the exact risk of using such material for dental fillings, there are different and arguably better filling materials available such as composite (a.k.a. white fillings), porcelain or gold.

What are the advantages of composite fillings over metal ones?

Composite fillings are made of a relatively inexpensive plastic resin that is hardened with a UV light. They can be made to match the color of your teeth. They resist the stress of hot or cold foods and drinks; however, they are best for small cavities. They are also less hard than dental porcelain, so there will be wear and tear as you chew and they will require replacement earlier than a lot of other materials.

Why is dental porcelain the best option?

Cosmetic-grade porcelain is preferred for many reasons. Not only is it as hard as tooth enamel, which is the hardest bone in the entire body, but it can last, with proper care, 10-15 years. It can also be colored to match your teeth. It is more expensive than composite material, but more cost-effective in the long term.

Is gold a good option for dental fillings?

Gold is a great material for restoration. Its hardness makes it relatively durable and effective for restoring chewing functions. Its downsides are its high cost and visibility. Gold cannot be colored to match the rest of the teeth, so getting a gold filling is a deliberate aesthetic choice.

What is the process for placing a filling?

Your dentist at our San Francisco or Sunnyvale office will first need to do a full examination to be sure that you know the state of your overall oral health. The next step is to apply a topical anesthetic to numb the area and then an injection to be sure you feel no pain at all. The cavity or old filling is removed with a dental drill or air abrasion tool, the area is then cleaned, and the replacement material is filled into the space created. We take pride in our meticulous approach to doing fillings just right, making sure they fit perfectly so that no food particles can get into cracks, and sculpting each to be smooth so that it doesn’t irritate the tongue. You can eat or drink a few hours after treatment, but is advisable to avoid very hot or cold foods or liquids for 24 hours after treatment, which could result in sensitivity in the area.

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