The hard, white layer that forms the outside of your tooth is called the enamel. It’s made from tiny mineral crystals that are hard, durable and extremely effective at keeping bacteria and food particles out. If you have healthy enamel, you’re going to have healthy teeth because of the protection it offers.
The trouble is enamel can and does get damaged. This may be through a chipped, cracked or otherwise damaged tooth; it could be because of localized caries (tooth decay) that eats its way through the hard tissue. Either way, once the enamel is compromised, the inner tissue of your tooth – which is a lot less durable – becomes vulnerable.
This can lead to large cavities, missing teeth as well as discolored or distorted enamel. All these outcomes are highly undesirable. To stop them from happening, dentists can fill holes in your enamel – even the ones a naked eye can’t see – with a variety of fillings. Here’s how that works, and what your best options are.
Fillings vs Crowns and Inlays
A crown is essentially a replacement layer of enamel that goes over a severely damaged tooth. That’s not the full story – but it is the layman’s version of it.
An inlay is a piece of hard material that replaces a tooth cusp, i.e. the pointy part of a molar or pre-molar tooth.
Unlike both of these options, a filling isn’t a hard material. This means it doesn’t need to be molded in advance in a dental lab. The only thing that’s required is to come in, see your dentist and give him access to your tooth.
This is because a filling starts out as a liquid that’s applied to a hole in your enamel. Afterwards, it’s treated with a special light (or another method) and solidifies. This is the primary difference between fillings and “hard” alternatives like crowns, inlays, onlays and veneers.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Fillings
Fillings have many advantages. Modern ones are durable, tooth-colored and ready in seconds. This makes them a perfect option when you just discover you have a damaged tooth – as well as for when you’re traveling or otherwise unable to see your regular dentist.
The disadvantage of fillings is that they start out as pliable materials, meaning it’s nigh-impossible to make cusps from them. They also require a mostly healthy tooth, and can’t replace a tooth that’s half-gone or about to crumble. You’ll need a crown to fix a problem like that.
But if you need to protect a tooth – especially its non-biting surface – the filling is a great choice. It’s inexpensive, near-instant and highly durable; can’t go wrong with that.
To find out more about the filling materials we use in our clinic, as well as get a free consultation on whether a filling is right for you or not, call us now at (781) 277-3120. We’ll be glad to help!