Many people don't like the look of metal fillings. They stand out, and aren't very aesthetically pleasing in most cases. Most metal fillings fall under the category of "dental amalgam." They consist of various types of metals fused with mercury. Do you have
- allergies to certain metals,
- or concerns about mercury?
Then it makes sense to seek an alternative to metal filings. Here are your options.
1. Composite Resin Fillings
One of the main alternatives to metal and mercury is composite resins. The composite consists of tooth-colored plastic, ceramic, and glass. It's the same kind of filling that cosmetic dentists often use to transform a smile while keeping it looking natural.
Other than the lack of metal and mercury, there are a few other benefits to composite resin.
- Composites can come in many shades, so it's easier to find a match for your natural tooth color
- Composites actually bond to teeth, which prevents further damage to the tooth structure
Composites work best in small to mid-sized cavities. They work well with large cavities as well, but decrease in longevity in direct correlation to how large they need to be.
The ability of composites to bond also means the dentist won't need to remove parts of your tooth or tooth structure. This is what typically occurs when a dentist has to place a metal filling.
2. Glass Ionomer Cement Fillings
Glass ionomer cement is another type of composite. Instead of plastic, it uses organic acids with a glass filler. The acids form a chemical bond with the tooth. These too are tooth-colored fillings, making them more aesthetically pleasing than metal.
Mostly, these types of fillings come up as an alternative to both metal and composites. However, they are best suited for small restorations, and are ideal for children.
3. Porcelain and Ceramics
Porcelain is a tried and true dental material. While it's true you can receive porcelain fused with metal, you can also receive full porcelain or porcelain and ceramic fillings. With porcelain and ceramics, it's possible to receive tooth-colored fillings that even match the texture of your other teeth. Porcelain inlays and porcelain onlays also bond to the tooth.
Porcelain works well for indirect restorations. It's not the ideal choice for a direct restoration.
Direct restoration – When the dentist places the filling immediately and directly into the prepared cavity.
Indirect restoration – These customized fillings fall mainly into three categories:
- Crowns cover the entire chewing surface of the tooth.
- Inlays covers the area inside the cusps.
- Onlays cover the inside the cusps and one or more of the cusps themselves.
Not every dental material choice will work for everybody. But it's important to know that you do have a choice if you don't want to deal with metal and mercury. Even if you already have a metal filing, you can speak to your dentist about having it replaced with a non-metal option.