Cavities and Fillings
Cavities are caused by certain oral bacteria. These oral bacteria consume sugars and other carbohydrates in your mouth and excrete acid. As their population grows, they band together in colonies that form a biofilm on your teeth. This is what we call plaque: a combination of bacteria protected by a sheath of defensive proteins.
Because these bacteria cling to your teeth, the acid they excrete attacks your tooth enamel. Tooth enamel is very strong, but it’s weak against acid. The acid removes minerals from the enamel and then destroys the enamel, creating a small hole. This is what we call a cavity.
Once bacteria have created a cavity, they can grow even faster. Cavities provide shelter for bacteria, letting them increase their numbers. Cavities can also trap food, which gives bacteria a long-term food supply, letting them grow even faster. In the cavity, acidity can concentrate even faster, which destroys the enamel even faster–they can even penetrate to the next layer of the tooth, dentin, which is even more vulnerable to acid attack.
We use fillings to keep food and bacteria from getting trapped inside your teeth. This stops the process of decay and protects your teeth.
Two Types of Tooth-Colored Fillings
Dental technology has developed two main types of tooth-colored fillings: composite and ceramic.
Composite fillings are inexpensive, quick, and ideal for small cavities. These start as a putty that we can simply inject or spread into the cavity. Then we expose it to a special light that causes it to harden. These can be completed in one short visit, and they are very successful for treating small cavities.
Ceramic fillings, also called inlays and onlays, are better for larger cavities. These are made from advanced ceramics that are even stronger than your tooth enamel. With these fillings, we have to prepare your teeth in one visit, take an impression, and send that impression to a lab. While the lab makes your ceramic filling, you will wear temporaries that look attractive, but aren’t as durable. When your fillings are ready, you come back in to have them fitted.
Ceramic fillings are more expensive, but they’re also more attractive, stronger, and more durable. Usually, we recommend ceramic for large cavities and situations where your teeth have been weakened by decay or previous restorations.
Problems with Metal
While metal have been used for hundreds of years, they are problematic. Gold isn’t too bad, except for their appearance and the fact that they can be very expensive.
Silver fillings, on the other hand, can cause serious problems. Silver fillings are better described as metal amalgam because they are made up of many types of metals. This includes silver, but mercury is usually the most common metal used. Mercury is highly toxic, and it doesn’t stay in the filling. It evaporates and migrates out of the filling as it rusts (turns black). The mercury enters the lungs, digestive tract, and bloodstream. Having these types of fillings can increase your mercury levels by 150%.
Amalgam can also damage your tooth because they expand much more when exposed to heat, which can crack the tooth. And the metal conducts heat to the tooth, causing sensitivity.
For these reasons, many people opt to remove metal, or, better yet, avoid getting them in the first place.