Tooth fillings are essential dental treatment to help repair and restore function to teeth with small to medium cavities. While most people know what different types of fillings are available, not so many know which ones are more suitable for the cavity they have.
Fillings for pit and fissure cavities
Pit and fissure cavities usually occur on molars, the back teeth you use for chewing food. It’s very easy for food residue to be caught in all the nooks and crannies on the chewing surfaces of molars. As a result, these are the very same areas where plaque, decay and cavities are more likely to develop.
Since your molars undergo relatively high stresses when chewing, the best type of filling to withstand these forces are silver amalgam or metal fillings (gold). These types of fillings are strong, durable and ideal for molars. With regular use, they can last as long as 15 years or more. Composite (resin) and ceramic fillings are less durable and can be used on molars that perform moderate chewing but they won’t last as long on molars used for heavy chewing.
Fillings for smooth surface cavities
Smooth surface cavities occur – as the name suggests – on the flat and smooth exterior surfaces of your teeth including those in the front and side of your mouth. Cavities are less prone to develop in these areas because they have thicker enamel and are easier to clean, making it more difficult for plaque and decay to develop. Approximal smooth surfaces, in which one tooth touches another, are more difficult to maintain.
Though fairly uncommon, smooth surface cavities can occur, especially if you don’t brush your teeth thoroughly or often enough. The good news is that they are easier to treat. If the cavity is minor, then you may only need fluoride varnish or a small specialised resin filling instead of a normal filling. On the other hand, if the cavity has progressed to an actual hole, then composite or ceramic fillings are your best options. They also have a better appearance on these “front-end” tooth surfaces than amalgam or metal fillings unless you prefer the metal look.
Fillings for root cavities
Root cavities are situated on the root surfaces of your teeth below the gum line. They are most likely to occur in older adults with receding gum lines. Once your gums recede, exposed root surfaces are more vulnerable to decay because they are not enamelised, unlike tooth surfaces above the gum line.
Composite or ceramic fillings are suitable filling options for root cavities unless the decay has penetrated through to your tooth pulp, in which case a root canal treatment may be advised by your dentist.