Your Dental Composite/ Dental Filling Choices

Thanks to modern technology, dentists have a wide array of options to choice from to give their patients healthy and natural looking smiles. There are always new dental materials that are being developed, like ceramics and polymer compounds. These materials are designed to look like real teeth. This way, both dentist and patient have so many options to choose from, when it comes to the type of materials that can be used for dental restoration work.

These materials can be used for all sort of repair of missing, damaged, or decayed teeth. There is still the use of gold, base metal alloys, as well as the dental amalgam. These are the materials that are used in the back of the teeth, because of their strength.

What’s the right thing for me?

There are several factors to consider. There is the oral and the general health of the patient, the materials used in the filling material, and how and where the filling is being placed. Also, there is the consideration of the chewing load that the tooth will endure.

Also, it will depend on how many visits are needed to the dentist to restore the tooth. The best decision as to what should be used, is up to the dentist. You should discuss all of your options with your dentist.

Different Dental Restorations

There are a couple different types of dental restoration: indirect, and direct.

A direct approach is placed in a cavity within a single visit. This is what most people think of when they think of getting a cavity filled. They include the dental amalgam, the glass ionomer, the resin inonomer, and the resin composite filling. The dentist preps the tooth, and the material is laid and set within one visit.

An indirect restoration requires two or more visits. These will include the onlay, the inlay, crowns, bridges, and veneers. The first visit will include the preparation of the tooth, and it will include an impression of the area that needs to be restored. Then, the impression is sent to the dental lab. The dental lab will make a product made for dental restoration. Then at the next appointment, the dentist is able to take the restoration, and put it into the prepared cavity area, and it will be adjusted to fit.

Composite Fillings

These are a mixture of glass, and possibly quartz that had been mixed with resin. These are tooth colored fillings. These are durable, and they are pretty fracture resistant for small to medium sized areas. They can be also bonded to the tooth as well. It takes a bit longer for this material to set, and it cost a bit more than an amalgam filling. They are subject to getting stained and discolored over a period of time.


These glass ionomers are translucent, and they are tooth colored. They are made out of acrylic acid, and out of fine glass powder. They are used as cavity filling, especially for those on the root surfaces of teeth. These will release a small amount of fluoride, which can help patients who need the extra fluoride protection. These will require a smaller cavity to be drilled than an amalgam. These are used in areas that aren’t prone to a heavy chewing load. They fracture easily, so they would be used in non-load bearing filling areas, such as between the teeth.

Resin ionomers are similarly made using acrylic resin and acids with a glass filler. They tend to fracture less frequently than glass ionomers. Both types are well tolerated by patients with only rare occurrences of allergic response.

Indirect Restorative Dental Materials

Sometimes the best dental treatment for a tooth is to use a restoration that is made in a laboratory from a mold. These custom-made restorations, which require two or more visits, can be a crown, an inlay or an onlay. A crown covers the entire chewing surface and sides of the tooth. An inlay is smaller and fits within the contours of the tooth.

The onlay is similar to the inlay, but the onlay covers all, or some of the surface of the tooth. The cost of these is high, because there are multiple visits required, and these have to be made in a dental lab. These are made out of ceramics, and out of porcelain fused to a metal support structure.

Ceramic Dental Materials

Ceramic or all-porcelain dental materials are often used in veneers, crowns, inlays and onlays. A veneer is a thin layer of porcelain that covers part of the tooth that may have chipped. The all-porcelain materials are most similar to the natural color of the tooth which is why many people prefer them to other materials.

The all-porcelain materials do require at least two dental visits and sometimes more. These restorations can be more sensitive and can break when under pressure. The underlying strength is dependent on how thick the porcelain is and how well it is bonded to the tooth.

Porcelain Fused to Metal

One of the stronger tooth restorations involves fusing porcelain to metal and then the entire porcelain-metal unit is bonded to the tooth. This results in a stronger tooth restoration but because of the bulk of the restoration, more of the tooth must be removed to allow it to fit properly. Because of the increased strength and resistance to wear and tear, these restored teeth can wear the opposing natural teeth if the porcelain becomes too rough. Some patients do show an allergic type of sensitivity to these materials.

Gold Alloy

Gold alloys aren’t 100% gold. These alloys contain other materials such as copper and result in a very strong filling, bridge or crown. Since the main element is metal, it is highly resistant to corrosion and are not subject to fracture or wear and tear. They do not wear the opposing natural teeth as much and are well tolerated by patients.