Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Dental Fillings
- What Are Indirect Fillings?
- What's a Temporary Filling and Why Would I Need One?
- Are Amalgam-Type Fillings Safe?
Indirect fillings are similar to composite or tooth-colored fillings except that they are made in a dental laboratory and require two visits before being placed. Indirect fillings are considered when not enough tooth structure remains to support a filling but the tooth is not so severely damaged that it needs a crown.
During the first visit, decay or an old filling is removed. An impression is taken to record the shape of the tooth being repaired and the teeth around it. The impression is sent to a dental laboratory that will make the indirect filling. A temporary filling (described below) is placed to protect the tooth while your restoration is being made. During the second visit, the temporary filling is removed, and the dentist will check the fit of the indirect restoration. Provided the fit is acceptable, it will be permanently cemented into place.
There are two types of indirect fillings – inlays and onlays.
Inlays are similar to fillings but the entire work lies within the cusps (bumps) on the chewing surface of the tooth
Onlays are more extensive than inlays, covering one or more cusps. Onlays are sometimes called partial crowns
Inlays and onlays are more durable and last much longer than traditional fillings – up to 30 years. They can be made of tooth-colored composite resin, porcelain or gold. Inlays and onlays weaken the tooth structure, but do so to a much lower extent than traditional fillings.
Temporary fillings are used under the following circumstances:
- For fillings that require more than one appointment – for example, before placement of inlays and onlays
- Following a root canal
- To allow a tooth's nerve to "settle down" if the pulp became irritated
- If emergency dental treatment is needed (such as to address a toothache)
Temporary fillings are not meant to last. They usually fall out, fracture, or wear out within 1 month. Be sure to contact your dentist to have your temporary filling replaced with a permanent one. If this is not done, the tooth could become infected with other complications.
Over the past several years, concerns have been raised about silver-colored fillings, otherwise called amalgams. Because amalgams contain mercury, some people think that amalgams are responsible for causing a number of diseases, including autism, Alzheimer's disease, and multiple sclerosis.
The American Dental Association (ADA), the FDA, and numerous public health agencies say amalgams are safe, and that any link between mercury-based fillings and disease is unfounded. The causes of autism, Alzheimer's disease, and multiple sclerosis remain unknown. Additionally, there is no solid, scientific evidence to back up the claim that if a person has amalgam fillings removed, he or she will be cured of these or any other diseases.