Cavities caused by tooth decay can be painful, and they leave your tooth open to bacteria and infection. The best treatment for dental cavities is to have the tooth cleaned and filled by a dentist.
Dentists have multiple options to choose from when they select a material to use to fill a patient's cavity.
Amalgam fillings are one of the most common materials for dental fillings. Amalgam is silver-colored and is made from a combination of silver, copper, mercury, tin, and other metals. These fillings are a good choice for large cavities and cavities in molars because the material hardens quickly, and amalgam fillings are durable and long-lasting.
Composite fillings are made of resin and plastic that hardens under a curing light. Composite fillings aren't as durable as amalgam fillings are, but composite is a good choice for teeth near the front of the mouth because it can be matched to your tooth. Composite fillings are more expensive than amalgam ones, and they generally need to be replaced every 7 to 10 years.
Ceramic fillings are made of porcelain. Ceramic fillings are usually called inlays or onlays because dentists need to make the space in the tooth larger so more of the material can be used. Ceramic inlays need the extra material because the porcelain is weaker than other types of fillings, and the larger filling makes it durable.
Ceramic fillings are more expensive than other types as well, but they match very well with the surrounding tooth, and they are more resistant to damage and staining than composite fillings.
Glass ionomer fillings are made from glass and acrylic. They only last for a few years, but they're an excellent choice for filling cavities in children's baby teeth because they release fluoride to help protect the tooth from decay.
Glass ionomer fillings can be matched to the tooth, though not as precisely as composite fillings.
Gold fillings aren't very common, primarily because they're much more expensive than other types of cavity filling materials. Many dental offices don't even offer gold fillings. The biggest advantage to gold fillings is that they last a very long time because they don't corrode, so a gold filling can be an investment that will last 20 years or longer.
If you have a cavity you need to have filled, contact your general dentistry office and ask which type of dental filling material would be best for you.