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Dental Fillings

Dental Fillings

Do you know what to expect when your dentist recommends a dental filling? Find out more about your options.


During your dental visit Dr. David Zelby may notify you that you are in need a dental filling. It is our practice to only recommend fillings when they are necessary to maintaining optimal dental health.

Types of Fillings

General Dentistry AtlantaThere are two main types of fillings, composite (tooth-colored) and amalgam (silver).

Composite fillings are a type of plastic filling that matches the color of your tooth and provides a cosmetically appealing restoration. This material is generally used for small to midsize areas and for those that will be visible when you smile. Depending on their location, composite fillings may be slightly less durable than amalgam fillings.

With new advances in dental materials, composite material has become stronger and more durable allowing your dentist to fill larger areas of decay without compromising the restoration. We continually stay abreast of research and advances in procedures and materials allowing us to provide tooth-colored filling for our patients, even in problematic and large fillings. Many individuals would prefer to have tooth-colored fillings to minimize the visibility and we strive to provide you with not only beautiful results but, successful and long-lasting benefits.

We see many simple cavities and are adept and detecting them in the early stages before advanced restorative methods are needed.  Simple and complex composite fillings are often the prescribed dental treatment to prevent further decay and deterioration of your teeth.

Amalgam, or silver, fillings are made from a combination of metals to provide a durable and long lasting restoration. This material is recommended for areas that are larger in size and not visible when smiling. Amalgam has been the material of choice for dentists for the past 150 years. It is a lower cost and longer lasting alternative to composite material. Many ask about the safety of these fillings. The American Dental Association, ADA (www.mouthhealthy.org) holds that these fillings when in their mixed state (as they are in your mouth) are completely safe.

When are fillings necessary?

Fillings may be required if a new cavity is detected. Decay or a compromised tooth is discovered through your comprehensive dental examination and through the necessary dental x-rays. Some cavities may be asymptomatic and undetectable without the use of these dental x-rays. Breakdown is considered a cavity once the decay has reached the middle portion, or dentin layer of the tooth. While the decay is still in the outer, enamel layer (called an incipient lesion) you will be advised on nutrition and homecare to prevent the progression of these lesions.[Progression of a Cavity. From left to right: healthy tooth; incipient lesion: early decay localized in the enamel; Cavity: decay has crossed into the dentin layer; decay has crossed into the pulp of the tooth (tooth is now indicated for root canal therapy), infection (abscess) has entered into the nerves and blood vessels root canal therapy is necessary and potential antibiotic therapy necessary.]For teeth that have not been filled in the past a Diagnodent® may be used to measure the amount of breakdown on the tooth. The Diagnodent® is a laser cavity detector that measures the breakdown and provides a numerical readout of the decay. If the measurement indicates that the decay has crossed into the dentin layer, it will be recommended that you receive a filling. Utilizing this technology to discover a cavity before it enters the dentin layer can allow for halting and potentially reversing the decay. Repairing these teeth before the decay becomes extensive can prevent the potential need for a root canal treatment, crown and potentially extraction.

Fillings may also be recommended if you have current fillings that are breaking down, compromised (cracks, chips or breaks), or discolored. All fillings have a lifespan and generally need to be replaced about every ten years. Through proper homecare and diet you can prolong the life of all of your restorations.

Cavity Prevention

In order to prevent cavities and prolong the life of all of your restorations, Dr. David Zelby utilizes an in-office screening procedure known as CAMBRA® (Caries Management By Risk Assessment). You will be asked to fill out a questionnaire at each preventive maintenance appointment and your hygienist will do a quick salivary swab. These procedures will help to asses your genetic predisposition to decay, your dietary habits and your risk factors for decay. Through this information Dr. Zelby is able to recommend a home-care regimen that can prevent the progression of cavities, prolong the life of your current fillings, crowns, bridges and veneers and potentially reverse incipient decay (decay confined to the enamel).