What are fillings?

Teeth that have been affected by tooth decay (caries or cavities) require a filling. There are many different types of fillings, including:

  • Dental amalgams - Dental amalgams, also known as silver fillings, are comprised of a mixture of mercury (45 to 50 percent), and an alloy of silver, tin, and copper (50 to 55 percent). When combined with other materials in a dental amalgam, mercury's chemical nature changes. Recently, controversial views have emerged regarding mercury in dental amalgams. Some dentists feel strongly that existing mercury amalgams should be removed and replaced with substitutes. Other dentists feel there is no harm from mercury amalgams. Consult your child's dentist for further information on this topic.
  • Composite resins - Also known as white fillings, a composite resin is a tooth-colored plastic mixture filled with glass (silicon dioxide) that is used primarily for cosmetic improvements of the smile by changing the color of the teeth or reshaping disfigured teeth.

Other alternatives to restoring damaged or decayed teeth:

  • Porcelain veneers - A ceramic material is bonded to the front of teeth to change the tooth's color, size, and/or shape.
  • Crown - A "cap" that covers a cracked or broken tooth, unfixed by a filling, to approximate its normal size and shape.
  • Cast gold restorations -This type of restoration is often more costly and may require more than one dental fitting.
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