For many years teeth were restored using silver amalgam fillings. They often last for many years when they are well done with proper care. Although the silver amalgam contains mercury, it is bound within the molecule of the amalgam and has not been proven to be a real health hazard. It is, however, often accused of causing this or that ailment. The biggest real complaint against amalgam fillings is that they are not very pretty. For that reason most people prefer a tooth colored filling or restoration.
Tooth colored fillings
Teeth that have small areas of decay or small old restorations that need replacing can easily be restored with tooth colored fillings. This is a resin material that usually contains a ceramic filler to provide strength and wearability. It is bonded to the remaining tooth structure after the decay and/or old filling is removed.
Teeth that have larger decayed areas or larger old restorations often lack sufficient remaining tooth structure to “hold” a filling for a predictable result. Often these teeth can be restored with a more conservative restoration than a crown by utilizing an onlay. These restorations “lay” over the chewing surface of the teeth. They are made in the lab after taking an impression of the prepared tooth. The completed onlay is then cemented to the remaining tooth with special cement that bonds it to the tooth.
Tooth colored filling with fluoride
For people with high rates of decay there are filling materials made that contain fluoride. Fluoride ions are released, which make the teeth more resistant to decay. These are especially helpful for young children who get decay and adults who are more cavity prone or suffer from a dry mouth. Many of today’s prescription drugs cause decreased saliva flow, which greatly increases decay, especially on the roots of teeth.