The conservative treatment of caries, when the pulp is vital and unexposed, is by removing the caries and filling the cavity to restore the tooth. If the pulp is exposed or dead, root canal therapy (endodontic treatment) is usually necessary before the crown of the tooth of the tooth is permanently filled. The aims of tooth restoration are to:
- Restore the tooth to its normal shape and prevent stagnation areas developing
- Restore the function of the tooth, for adequate mastication
- Restore the retentive shape of the tooth if it acts as a bridge abutment or denture retainer
- Restore aesthetics
- Alleviate discomfort or pain
Teeth may be restored with temporary or permanent fillings.
Temporary filling materials and cavity liners:
- Zinc oxide and eugenol cement
- Zinc phosphate cement
- Polycarboxylate cement
Use of temporary fillings:
- As a first-aid measure to relieve pain
- When there is insufficient time to complete the cavity and insert a permanent filling in one visit
- For procedures requiring more than one visit, e.g. inlays, crowns and root treatments, a temporary restoration is necessary between visits to close the cavity and prevent food debris collecting
- To allow a symptomatic tooth to settle and become symptom-free, before being permanently filled
Permanent filling materials are the materials used to permanently restore the tooth to its full function.
Amalgam is the most widely used permanent fillings for posterior teeth, as it is cheaper, more durable, and easier to use than its tooth-coloured competitors – composite and glass ionomer.
Composite filling materials
Composite filling materials are tooth-coloured and are accordingly used for permanent fillings in front teeth. They can also be used for filling back teeth but do not wear as well as metal fillings.