Dental Associates

Fillings & Restorative Care Questions

Answers to questions about tooth fillings and restorative dental care.

What causes a toothache?
There are many things that can cause a toothache, and it’s best to make an appointment to see your Dental Associates dentist so your situation can properly be diagnosed and treated. Below are some of the more common causes of a toothache:

  • Tooth decay (a cavity)
  • Severe toothaches may be a sign of pulp decay, requiring root canal therapy
  • A fractured tooth
  • A damaged tooth filling
  • An abscessed tooth
  • Gum infection

What types of tooth fillings does Dental Associates offer?
Our dentists can offer the cavity filling that best suits their patient’s preference, including:

  • Amalgam, silver fillings
  • Composite resins, or tooth-colored fillings
  • Gold fillings

Why are most tooth fillings silver?
A silver tooth filling is made from Dental amalgam, a combination of metals that include mercury, silver, tin, and copper. Dental amalgam has been the standard of care in dentistry for over a century because its durability, long lifespan, and its affordability compared to other cavity filling materials (tooth-colored composites or gold fillings).

The durability of silver amalgam fillings make them the best choice for large cavities or cavities that occur in the back teeth. These molar teeth are used significantly during chewing, and a lot of force is needed. Amalgam fillings can withstand these forces and provide a patient a long-term, reliable filling for a cavity.

Another benefit is that amalgam hardens quickly. So, whether the dentist is working in an area that’s difficult to keep dry (like below the gum line) or working with a child or special needs patient, the short set-up time of the amalgam filling makes it a superior choice when time is of the essence.

Is the mercury in silver tooth fillings safe?
Dental amalgam includes mercury content, but when combined with the other metals offers a safe, stable material for filling cavities. Amalgam has been proven to be safe and effective material by many studies and by many organizations. According to the American Dental Association…

The American Dental Association, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U. S. Food and Drug Administration and World Health Organization all agree that based on extensive scientific evidence, dental amalgam is a safe and effective cavity-filling material. The Alzheimer’s Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, Autism Society of America and National Multiple Sclerosis Society—all science-based organizations like the ADA—also say that amalgam poses no health risk.

Are tooth-colored fillings available?
Tooth-colored fillings are growing in popularity in recent years because they are more cosmetically-pleasing compared to silver fillings. Made from composite resins, natural-colored fillings are best for small-to-medium-sized fillings that don’t need to withstand as much chewing pressure as molar teeth.

Benefits of natural tooth-colored composite fillings:

  • The color of your fillings can be matched to the natural color of your other teeth, completely hiding fillings when you laugh or open your mouth
  • Composite fillings can be used in front teeth
  • Composite fillings can be placed where amalgams can’t
  • Composite fillings greatly reduce the amount of tooth structure that needs to be removed compared to the prep that’s needed to accommodate an amalgam filling
  • Composite fillings bond to the tooth, and in some cases, can actually strengthen the tooth

Why wouldn’t all patients choose tooth-colored fillings?
Since tooth-colored resin fillings hide the imperfections of a cavity filling, you would assume that all patients would request them. However, there are a few things to consider:

  • While no dental filling lasts forever, studies have shown that composite fillings can be less durable and need to be replaced more often than amalgam fillings
  • Tooth-colored resin fillings cost more than silver amalgam fillings and are not covered by all dental insurance plans
  • Since composite fillings are more technique sensitivity than amalgams, it generally takes longer to place a composite filling than it does for a traditional metal filling

I have a toothache near an old cavity filling. Does it need to be replaced?
Your dentist will examine your situation for the proper diagnosis. This may include taking X-rays to thoroughly examine the cause of the toothache. In some cases, an old amalgam filling needs to be replaced because it’s wearing out. However, it’s impossible to diagnose without a visit to your dentist for proper examination. Please request an appointment to assure the problem is addressed in a timely manner.

Does Dental Associates offer teeth whitening?
Yes, your hygienist and dentist can cover all the teeth whitening and other cosmetic dentistry options Dental Associates offers. For an overview of our teething whitening services, please visit our Cosmetic Dentistry section.