Tooth filling to fight tooth decay

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Tooth filling to fight tooth decay

Has this ever happened to you?

On a beautiful Wednesday morning in the late spring earlier this year, I was on the way to my next regular dental checkup. Though I had never really had any issues during previous visits, I still felt this weird feeling overcome me ever so slowly. “Maybe today will be the day of the drill? Hopefully not …” I thought to myself as I entered the waiting room and was greeted by a gust of the typical dental office smell. While focusing on happy thoughts, I waited until it was my turn to sit in the examination chair. After a thorough 10 minute-long dental exam, my dentist let me know his diagnosis: “Overall, there is barely any change since the last time I saw you – with one tiny exception. The bottom right molar has a little cavity that we will need to clean and fill.” Oh no, I had already seen it coming …

Dentist and patient reviewing a panorama x-ray to locate tooth decay

What is a dental filling?

Don’t worry. A dental filling is a very simple procedure that we will take care of super-quickly and without complications or any pain.” my dentist told me in a pacifying tone after he saw my concerned facial expression. Dental fillings are required to seal cavities in teeth in order to stop decay from worsening or to avoid tooth loss. To prepare a tooth for a successful filling, the dentist has to first remove the decayed tooth substance with a drill and then thoroughly clean the remaining cavity. Afterwards, the tooth is sealed with either a metal-based or a non-metal-based material to prevent re-infection. The whole procedure normally requires just a single appointment. Nowadays, dentists can pick between several different sealant options for dental fillings with the two most commonly used ones being amalgam and composite/plastic:

Amalgam filling – A mixture of silver, copper, zinc, and quicksilver that dentists have been using for over 100 years and that is still the most commonly used material for dental fillings (especially for those that are in the non-visible part of the mouth)
  • PROs: Long durability (10+ years), unimpaired ability to chew, low allerginicity
  • CONs: unaesthetic silver-grey color, potentially toxic quicksilver ingredient
Composite filling – A mixture of multiple substances, such as fine glass particles and methacrylates that adapts to the color of the surrounding dental enamel to produce an aesthetically pleasing result which has boosted its use in recent years (especially in the visible part of the mouth).
  • PROs: aesthetic white coloring
  • CONs: Shorter durability (4-8 years), potentially higher bite sensibility, may cause allergic reactions
„Looks like I will have to decide between a combination of longer durability and silver coloring and a combination of shorter durability and white coloring. Are there any other potentially viable options?“ I asked my dentist after his helpful overview of the different available dental filling options.

Dental enamel under attack by tooth decay

What are the alternatives for a dental filling?

A so-called Inlay would be a potentially viable alternative but I would not recommend it in your case because your cavity is relatively small by comparison.“ My dentist advised me. Inlays are either made out of a gold alloy or out of porcelain and are are good option for sealing off large dental cavities. They also have quite a long lifespan (10-15 years or more) and, if made out of porcelain, blend in very well with the enamel of the treated tooth from an aesthetic and coloring perspective. However, a tooth needs to be sufficiently stable structurally to properly support an inlay – otherwise, it can crumble under pressure. Also, inlays are quite expensive and can, depending on the material that they are made out of and the scope of the treatment procedure, cost up to EUR 3,000 per tooth. „Ok – seems like an inlay is not a great idea. Alright, back to the tooth filling then. How much does one cost?“

How much does a dental filling cost?
The exact cost of a dental filling depend on multiple factors including location of the treated tooth, scope and intensity of treatment, and (mostly) type of filling material.
  • Amalgam filling – Can cost between EUR 20 and EUR 40 and is currently 100% covered and reimbursed by insurers in Vienna and Austria.
  • Composite filling – Can cost between EUR 60 and EUR 200 and is only reimbursed by Austrian insurers if placed on visible teeth (e.g., incisors) or if a patient can prove an allergic reaction to other less costly filling materials (e.g., amalgam).

To help with the affordability of tooth fillings that are not reimbursed by insurance, patients may opt for purchasing “wrap-around” dental insurance policies. “Looks like there is quite a cost gap between the 2 options … but since I only have one smile, let’s go for a composite filling.” I told my dentist and, after a very efficient procedure, was already on my merry way only shortly thereafter.

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