Glass Ionomer Fillings

What is a glass ionomer filling?

A new type of white filling, glass ionomer fillings are constructed from a natural looking cream-coloured substance designed to fill gaps in teeth while remaining discreet. The substance is made from a combination of glass particles, or fluoroaluminosilicate, acrylic and a setting agent. Unlike traditional silver amalgam fillings, they’re able to form a chemical bond with the teeth, which reduces the chance of damage or further decay.

Modern glass-based fillings have been proven to be almost as strong as traditional fillings whilst remaining versatile They are commonly used for a number of cavities including inlay filling cementation, front tooth fillings and general fillings around the neck and root of the tooth. Glass fillings also have the added benefit of releasing fluoride on to the teeth, which helps prevent further tooth decay in that area.

The treatment process

Before the filling can be inserted, the tooth must be thoroughly cleaned and dried. The tooth is then isolated and a solution is placed on the surface to aid the bonding of the filling. This must also be washed and dried before the procedure can begin.

The glass ionomer filling can then be directly inserted into the cavity where the tooth decay has occurred. The filling is bonded to the tooth without the need for pins, blue light or adhesive, reducing the chances of pain during the bonding process. A polish can then be applied to the tooth as required to give a natural finish.

Very little preparation is required to insert glass ionomer, but the fillings are slightly weaker than other white or traditional fillings and so may not be suitable for biting surfaces. However, if the tooth is well maintained, they can last for five years or more.

Do the fillings contain harmful substances?

Glass ionomer fillings do not contain any harmful substances and can be a good alternative for those concerned about traditional fillings. Although silver amalgam has been shown to be safe, many people are concerned about the presence of mercury within the substance, which some argue leads to long-term health problems. Silver amalgam fillings are also more prone to contracting and expanding over time, potentially damaging the structure of the remaining tooth.

These fillings can be used to replace old white or traditional fillings to provide a more natural look or reduce health concern where traditional methods have been used. However, your dentist will advice about the benefits of replacing fillings, particularly those placed on a bite surface.