Is there really an advantage to gold dental fillings?
April 1, 2006 3:14 AM   Subscribe

Is there really an advantage to gold dental fillings?

It is time to replace one of the fillings at the back of my mouth. My dentist is telling me that, since this is a chewing tooth, gold is the best material for this filling. While I think gold looks tacky as a filling substance, it isn't as if anyone other than he is going to see it, so that is not an issue for me.

The issue is that this is the first time a gold filling has ever been suggested. Is this really a better material for a long term filling?
posted by Joey Michaels to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
i have no real clue on this, but the internet seems to view gold as being an all right traditional filling, but with newer composites and plastics surpassing them (wikipedia). it doesn't seem to say anything about chewing, though, beyond the fact that gold is soft enough to not damage the opposing teeth. but they do apparently last a long time!
posted by soma lkzx at 5:02 AM on April 1, 2006

Gold wears down with your other teeth
posted by spinko at 6:39 AM on April 1, 2006

I was a patient for dental boards, and they used gold. I believe the malleability makes it easier to work with. Whenever I go to the dentist and they see the fillings, they always say something like, "oooh, nice work." Maybe my mouth is just a traveling portfolio FOR CAPTAIN JOHN ROBERTS, UBER-DENTIST. He made me pay for the gold, however. Grrr.
posted by craniac at 7:44 AM on April 1, 2006

Gold is also about just about the least-reactive metal on the planet, and will provide a much stronger base for bridges or crowns than the alternatives. The problem is that nobody ever uses pure 24kt. gold--it's mixed with something else to create an allow. Depending on what it's mixed with, you can have problems: if, for example, you mix it with nickel, people with sensitive immune systems can have bad reactions.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:28 AM on April 1, 2006

From the ADA: Dental Filling Options (and a PDF.)
posted by misterbrandt at 1:48 PM on April 1, 2006

Several years ago I had a filling come loose and carious, and had to get an onlay. My dentist told me that gold does indeed wear better than just about anything, so that's what I got, basically replacing about 1mm of the top surface of the tooth. Unfortunately, gold is also much more thermally conductive, and the onlaid tooth was exquisitely cold-sensitive for the entire time I had it.

In the end, the sides of the tooth started to crack, and I had to get a more complete onlay. This time I opted for porcelain over a gold base, and the cold sensitivity was much reduced.

I'm assuming you are talking about an onlay/crown; gold fillings are usually done with gold foil, and I am given to understand that they are notoriously difficult to learn to do correctly. I have several polymer fillings, and have been nothing but satisified with them.
posted by oats at 3:35 PM on April 1, 2006

I have a gold crown on one tooth and I'm very happy with it. the second time I needed one, though, I went with something else (ceramic?), and I haven't noticed a difference. I thought it was cool having some gold, but other people seem to think it's kind of gouche (not that it's visible --- it's a rear molar).
posted by alms at 6:09 PM on April 1, 2006

I needed a crown on a molar, and was talking to my dentist about the options. She opened up and showed me her mouth--ceramic up front, where it shows, but gold in the back, on the chewing surfaces. That was good enough for me.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:10 PM on April 1, 2006

The dentist I had in Colorado told me gold was preferable because the physical properties of its alloys were the closest to those of your natural teeth. The coefficient of expansion (how much it shrinks and grows as temperature changes) is the same as your natural teeth, so there is less stress and fracturing of the filling. Gold is also easier to use and install, so there is less need to destroy healthy tooth material in order to make the filling fit and hold. When I moved and went to a new dentist, he would call his technicians and assistants in to look at my mouth because of the work of the old dentist and the gold fillings.

If you have any fillings of other metals that will be close to your gold fillings, however, be prepared to get shocks from the galvanic effect. It will wear off after a couple of weeks, but it's like chewing on tinfoil until then.
posted by forrest at 10:20 PM on April 1, 2006

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