Can fillings be too big?You might feel relieved when your dentist tells you that you can get a filling instead of a dental crown. But maybe you shouldn’t be. Although a filling is a good dental restoration in many situations, it’s not always the right choice, especially when there’s significant decay.

Some fillings can put your teeth at risk. If they’re too large, made out of the wrong material, or poorly placed, fillings can cause discomfort or make your teeth more likely to crack.

Fortunately, some fillings are not only attractive, they can also help strengthen your teeth.

When Fillings Are Too Large

Fillings are too large when they compromise the structural integrity of your teeth. They can significantly weaken your teeth, leading to increased risk of teeth cracking. But how big is too big?

One standard is that fillings get too large when they involve too many surfaces. Studies have shown that when a tooth is prepared for a filling in one surface, the strength may go down by about 20%. Preparation in two surfaces (such as the top and one side) can decrease strength by  46%, while preparation in three surfaces decreases strength by over 60%.

Another standard is the width of the filling. Some say that a filling shouldn’t be any wider than ⅓ of the distance between the cusps (high points) of a tooth. Others allow for up to 50% of this distance.

These figures were calculated for metal amalgam fillings, which are the worst for damaging teeth. Metal amalgam fillings aren’t bonded to the tooth, and they’re just a solid lump inside your tooth. Not only does this not bond the sides of the tooth together, it can actually act as a wedge driven into your tooth every time you chew, increasing the risk of fracture. And then there’s heat cracking and percolation, which increase in significance the larger the filling gets.

Some Fillings Can Strengthen Teeth

However, sometimes you can get away with a larger filling if you utilize a more advanced filling material. Ceramic fillings don’t have to be sunken as deeply into the tooth as metal amalgam fillings. Plus, they’re bonded to the tooth so they can help hold the tooth together. For large fillings, an onlay can be used, which goes up and over the cusps of the teeth. This not only holds the tooth together, but distributes forces better, more like a flat table on top of the tooth than a wedge being driven in.

The filling material can even be many times stronger than your tooth enamel, reducing the risk of fractures and cracking.

Do Dentistry Right the First Time

Many people look at dentistry as purely an expense and are always looking for the cheapest procedure today. But it’s best to look at dentistry as an investment: consider the value of what you’re getting.

You may not always want a crown, but sometimes it’s the best option. Metal amalgam fillings may initially be cheap, but if you get a fractured tooth, you will not only have paid for a filling and a crown, you may also end up paying for a root canal if the fracture penetrated into your tooth pulp.

Ceramic fillings are a good value when compared to metal amalgam. They are much more attractive, last as long or longer, and can be more comfortable.

We are dedicated to ensuring you get the best dental care the first time. If you are prepared to invest in the health and beauty of your smile and want a Hilton Head area dentist who can provide quality services, please call (843) 706-2999 today for an appointment at Beyond Exceptional Dentistry.