Ever wonder why some people have silver fillings and others have white? What is the deal with gold teeth? There are many materials available for dental restorations. Each one of them has its own benefits and drawbacks. Dentists may prefer certain materials for their restorations, and in some cases one will be better suited to a patient’s situation than another. Here’s a general overview of some of the most common materials used in dental restorations:
Gold alloy: This is the most common of the “high noble alloys,” comprised of over 60% gold. This is a biocompatible metal that does not cause allergic reactions. As a noble metal, gold is mostly non-reactive, making it non-toxic and hypoallergenic. Because gold is a soft metal, it does require other metals to help it stay strong and stand up to the pressures of biting and chewing. It also comes with the distinctive yellow color, drawing attention to itself and the fact that you’ve had dental work done.
Base metal alloy: Much like gold alloys, this is also a combination of metals that create a strong and durable filling or crown. Made from cheaper materials, it will cost less and is more likely to be covered by your insurance plan. However, some people have metal allergies. About 10% of women and 5% of men will react to having metal in their bodies, making this a bad choice of restoration for them. They will retain a metallic, silvery tone and not blend in with the rest of your teeth.
Silver amalgam: This material is used only for tooth fillings, and has been in use for over 100 years. Like alloys, the amalgam has a combination of several different metals in it. The restorations are strong and durable. They will tarnish from silvery to a blackish color. They can also cause what is called a galvanic reaction, forming a small battery in your mouth if it comes in contact with another amalgam filling. While they are considered safe, some people worry about the metals used to make them.
Porcelain: Porcelain looks like natural tooth material, so it is an ideal choice for teeth in the front that will be most visible when you talk or smile. It has the same translucent appearance as teeth do, and can be customized to match the color of the surrounding teeth. While it is aesthetically more pleasing than a metal crown, is is not as strong. Porcelain crowns are not suited for restoring molars and other back teeth that take the pressure of biting. There may be sensitivity when porcelain is used.
Ceramic: Like porcelain, ceramic restorations can be virtually indistinguishable from natural teeth. This light material is a good choice for front teeth, restoring the aesthetics of your smile. It can last several years, but is not as durable as most other types of restoration.
Zirconium: An extremely strong and durable material, zirconium combines the virtues of metal and porcelain restorations. The material is extremely biocompatible, so it won’t cause damage to the surrounding teeth or cause an allergic reaction. It also resembled natural teeth, and the color can be customized when creating it for a precise match. Extremely strong, zirconium restorations could, in theory, be hit with a hammer and not receive damage, but we don’t recommend testing that for yourself. The material can be expensive, and some people will find their insurance will not cover much or any of the cost.
If you find yourself in need of a dental restoration, knowing the advantages of each of the materials available will help you decide what is best for you. Your dentist can help you make this decision, and may have a preference as to which materials work best. If you have any questions about fillings or crowns, feel free to ask Dr. Pham, or any dentist you trust to keep your smile in top condition.