A cavity filling is among the simpler dental procedures, but the array of choices for a cavity filling can be complicated. Talk to your dentist about your budget, lifestyle, and aesthetic preferences to choose the cavity filling that's best for you.
Options for Your Cavity Filling
The choices of material for a cavity filling include:
- Metals: Gold or silver amalgam are the most common metals used for a cavity filling. Gold fillings can cost as much as 10 times more than silver amalgam fillings, but some people prefer the appearance of gold to silver fillings if they want the durability of metal vs. a less-durable composite material. Some people don’t like the appearance of metal fillings, but metal fillings can last as long as 10-15 years before they need to be replaced.
- Composite Resin: Composite resin fillings are made of tooth-colored material. They cost more than amalgam fillings, but cost may be worth it if your cavity filling is on one of your front teeth. Composite fillings are used less often on back teeth.
- Ceramic: A ceramic cavity filling (usually made of porcelain) is tooth-colored, and it may be less likely to show tooth stains over time than a composite cavity filling. But price is a factor—a ceramic filling can be nearly as expensive as a gold cavity filling.
- Glass Ionomer: This blend of acrylic and glass is used to create a cavity filling that releases fluoride to help protect teeth. But a glass ionomer cavity filling is less durable than other types, and may need to be replaced in as little as five years
Watch Your Cavity Filling for Signs of Wear
If you notice signs of wear on your tooth fillings, such as cracks or worn areas, see your dentist to have the filling replaced as soon as possible. Continuing to chew with a damaged filling can cause the tooth to crack and require additional repair that is more expensive and more complicated than a simple cavity filling. If additional tooth decay develops around a filling, whether or not the filling is damaged, your dentist may choose to repair the tooth with a crown instead of a second cavity filling.(2),(3)
Potential Problems With Cavity Fillings
Most cavity fillings will last for years before they need to be replaced. But it’s important to know about potential problems, so you can see your dentist promptly to have cavity fillings adjusted or repaired. Possible complications from cavity fillings include:
- Infection: Sometimes a cavity filling will pull away from the tooth to which it is attached, creating a small space. This space can be a breeding ground for bacteria that can cause additional tooth decay. If you notice a space between your tooth and your cavity filling, visit a dentist as soon as possible.(2),(3)
- Damage: Sometimes a cavity filling breaks, cracks, or falls out. Damage to a filling can occur when you bite down on something hard or if you are hit in the mouth while playing sports. See a dentist as soon as you notice damage to a cavity filling to avoid irritation and infection of the unprotected tooth. (2),(3)