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If you have gotten a cavity before, you know the drill. You head to the dentist, they drill your teeth, then probably fill it with that sticky resin material that tastes weird for a few days afterward. The most common material used for dental fillings is a composite resin filling, but that is not the only kind of filling dentists use. Dentists also use various metals and other materials like porcelain to make fillings and dental crowns.
Dentists have even been known to use gold as a material for fillings and still do. There was a time when gold fillings were very common. However, gold fillings have become less common in recent years due to advances in other technologies that are more cost-efficient like composites and silver amalgam.
Are Gold Fillings Really Gold?
Yes, gold fillings really do have gold in them, but they are not pure gold. Gold fillings are usually an alloy (a mixture of multiple metals) and also include silver, copper, zinc palladium, and/or platinum. Technically, gold fillings are called “amalgams”
Pure gold is very soft and not strong, so it makes an unsuitable material for filling parts of the teeth that make repeated contact with each other and food items. Gold alloys are used for many reasons, including but not limited to:
- Gold alloys are strong and durable. They can last up to 2-3 times longer than other kinds of filling materials if taken proper care of.
- Gold is highly malleable so it can mold to fit the tooth exactly without leaving any gaps between the filling and the enamel.
- Gold is also highly resistant to corrosion and is naturally compatible with human tissue like your gums.
- They are highly ductile meaning that they will not fracture or crack, unlike porcelain fillers might.
Gold fillings are resistant to chipping and fracturing so they are often used for molars and premolars or for people who chronically grind their teeth. Additionally, many people just find gold aesthetically pleasing, or at least, more so than other types of fillings. A good-quality gold filling can last between 10-15 years or longer. Some people have gold fillings over 50 years old that still work as intended.
Pure gold is not a good filling material for the molars, but it is sometimes used for fillings in parts of the teeth that do not routinely get a lot of pressure.
Can I Still Get Gold Fillings?
Yes, you absolutely still can get gold fillings. They are less common than they were in the past, but many dentists still offer traditional gold fillings.
Here is how a gold filling works:
- Your dentist will first drill out the cavity in your tooth and make a cast impression of the hole.
- That hole then gets filled with a temporary lining.
- Your tooth impression is then used to make a gold filling that exactly fits your tooth.
- When you go to the dentist for your second appointment, the dentist will attach the filling and cement it into places.
How Much Does a Gold Filling Cost?
It depends on how large the filling is. Generally, gold is much more costly than other types of tooth fillings, because it is designed to last for such a long time. The final price also depends on the extent of the tooth decay, placement of the tilling, and any other complications that might arise.
Overall, you can expect to pay anywhere between $400-$1,500 for a gold filling. It is hard to give an exact value because the price is (partly) affected by the price of gold, which changes over time.
Other cost factors include administrative costs and cost for procedural equipment such as nitrous oxide, oral sedation, and any other kind of ancillary dental service.
Will My Insurance Cover a Gold Filling?
It depends on your exact insurance policy but, yes, gold dental fillings can be covered by insurance. As with any insurance claim, you will have to pay your deductible first before they will step in and take the rest. Insurance usually pays 20 percent of eligible procedures. So if you had already met your deductible and the tooth filling cost $250, then that would cost you $50.
Gold or Silver Filing: Which Is Better?
Silver is another relatively common material that is used for tooth amalgams. Silver is similarly durable to gold and has a likewise aesthetically pleasing appearance. Silver also tends to be less expensive than its gold counterpart.
However, many people claim that silver amalgams do not match the natural color of the teeth as well as gold. Silver is also less malleable than gold, so the dentist has to remove more of the exposed tooth before adding the silver filling. Also, silver amalgam metal is much more sensitive to shifts in temperature, which can cause it to expand, increasing the risk of fractures.
Disadvantages of Gold Fillings
Gold is in general a very versatile metal and is an excellent choice for tooth fillings. However, it does have some downsides: First off, and we have already mentioned this a bit, gold is fairly expensive. A gold filling can easily cost up to 10 times more than other kinds of fillings like composite resin.
Gold fillings also require more work to fit. You need to make at least two dentist trips: one to get the impression for the cast and another to have the cast cemented to your tooth. One last disadvantage is that gold fillings can cause electric shocks in your mouth if they are placed next to a silver amalgam. The saliva in your mouth conducts electricity between the two metals, giving you a sharp electric shock.
Gold fillings are not nearly as common as they used to be, but they are still a viable option for getting a filling. Gold is a good choice due to its durability and resistance, so a gold filling could potentially last your entire life if taken care of properly. Contact our Westerville dental office to schedule an appointment or if you have any questions about dental fillings.