For many years, dentists used primarily silver amalgam as the standard material for dental fillings. In fact, amalgam is still an option in most dental offices. Over the past several years, patients have also been given the choice of composite fillings that match the color of their existing teeth. But in the future, there may be another alternative to dental filling material: glass.
According to the journal Dental Materials, researchers at Oregon State University have determined that use of a type of “bioactive” glass in dental fillings could make it harder for bacteria to form in and around composite tooth fillings. This could help extend the life of composite fillings, which by some estimates is only about six years. Bioactive glass is a certain kind of crushed glass that has been used to assist in bone healing for many years, but researchers are only just now determining its usefulness in dentistry.
The material is composed of compounds including silicon oxide, phosphorus oxide and calcium oxide. The glass is called “bioactive” because the human body recognizes the presence of it and reacts to it. In the future, bioactive glass may be used to replace the current glass fillers used in composite dental material.
While it’s true that no dental filling will last forever, bioactive glass could significantly prolong the life of many fillings by slowing down secondary tooth decay and replacing some minerals that are being lost in the mouth. While there are still more studies to be done, this research is extremely promising and could be a significant step forward in the field of dental technology.
Although glass fillings may be some years off in the future, you can still have a choice of what type of dental filling material is used by your dentist. Talk to him or her about what materials are currently available, and what the advantages and disadvantages are of each type. Silver amalgam, for example, is quite strong and durable but does darken over a period of years. Composite fillings, while not quite as strong as amalgam, are still durable and the shade can be matched almost perfectly to that of your normal teeth. Your dentist can help you choose which filling material is best for you and members of your family. And in the future, who knows? You may be selecting glass fillings!
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