Glass Ionomer Fillings

Properly restoring a tooth that has been damaged by injury or decay requires that the dentist consider the type of tooth, the extent of the injury or decay and the benefits and drawbacks of different types of available dental restorative procedures.

Fillings are considered to be the “simpler” dental restorative procedures, only because they are used when the damage to a tooth is more minimal. (Inlays, onlays and crowns are examples of dental restorative procedures that are used when the damage to a tooth is more extensive.) That said, there are several different options for dental fillings, and they each have different strengths that are more beneficial in certain situations. One such option is the glass ionomer filling.

What to Know About Glass Ionomer Fillings

Glass ionomer fillings are made from a combination of fluoroaluminosilicate, or minute glass particles, acrylic and a setting agent. They are cream colored, and so like composite fillings are better able to blend with the color of one’s natural teeth. This can be an important point for many patients, because while they definitely desire to restore tooth structure, function and comfort they yet want to preserve the aesthetics of a beautiful mouth while doing so.

One thing that makes glass ionomer fillings truly unique is that they can form a chemical bond with teeth, reducing or even eliminating the chance of further injury or decay. They also release fluoride onto the tooth, further helping to protect the health of that tooth and guard against the harmful oral bacteria that seeks to attack the tooth.

Though there are some benefits to glass ionomer fillings, the truth is that they are not always as strong as composite resin fillings, and so are not as highly recommended in locations where high pressure or intense wear is more likely to occur. Glass ionomer fillings are also not quite as good at matching natural tooth color as composite resin fillings, so when placed at the very front of the mouth they may be minimally detectable. Resin-modified glass ionomers can be stronger, but these fillings also need to be placed in thin layers, each layer requiring curing (hardening) with a special dental light before the next layer can be applied. This results in a longer appointment, but a stronger filling.

Receiving Glass Ionomer Fillings

When placing a glass ionomer filling, your dentist will:

  • Clean and dry the tooth,
  • Isolate the tooth and place a solution on the tooth to aid in the bonding process,
  • Wash and dry the bonding solution,
  • Place the glass ionomer filling into the cavity space,
  • Apply a polish to the filling.

Well cared for, a glass ionomer filling may last for approximately five years, sometimes longer. Proper care includes adhering to good oral hygiene habits, like maintaining a healthy diet, brushing twice a day, flossing once a day and visiting the dentist every six months. It also includes speaking with your dentist whenever you notice that something seems amiss with your oral health.

Some Final Thoughts

Glass ionomer fillings can be a good alternative for patients who are concerned about reacting to the substances contained in other types of fillings, as they do not contain any substances that are considered harmful in any quantity. That said, they are not recommended for use on the biting surfaces of back teeth but rather for front teeth, around the necks of the teeth and in the roots of teeth. They are also commonly used for fillings in baby teeth, where fillings are determined to be necessary and prudent.

For more information about glass ionomer fillings and whether they are right for you, contact Today’s Dental now.

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