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Glass Ionomer Cements

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Glass ionomer cements are special materials used for the purpose of restoring teeth. Although amalgam is now being used less frequently, glass ionomer cements are not a good alternative because of their instability, despite their ease of use. Glass ionomer cements were originally developed for use in the Third World, where a filling material that would not involve drilling of teeth was required. The introduction of high-viscosity glass ionomer cements in the mid-1990s further pushed the development of these cements. This class of glass ionomer cements was originally intended for atraumatic restorative treatment, which involved the insertion of fillings by individuals who were not dentists. The cement was simply pressed into the cavity; such procedures were performed during dental programmes organized in developing lands. Glass ionomer cements stick to the enamel and release fluorides into it, thus slowing the progress of caries. However, this fluoride release gradually slows down within the first few weeks following the filling, and if not supplemented by external means, the “battery effect” disappears completely. If the filling is coated with a fluoride paint, the filling is “recharged” with fluorides that are then transmitted to the enamel of the filled tooth.

Since glass ionomer cements can be used quickly and easily, they have now established themselves primarily in the field of pediatric dentistry. Both milk and permanent teeth can be successfully treated with these materials; however, they only last for 2–5 years because of rapid wear and limited resistance to distortion, making them unsuitable as permanent filling materials.

Glass ionomer fillings must be replaced after 2–5 years because they either distort or become loose. While removing the material with a drill, however, there is some inevitable loss of enamel, which equates to a larger filling and a smaller tooth. As a result, a root canal treatment becomes necessary sooner or later. If the root canal treatment is poorly done, the tooth may fall of within a few years, necessitating a prosthesis. This vicious cycle continues, and by the age of 60, a full prosthesis is required. Considering that even the best possible materials are useless if plaque is not efficiently removed from one’s teeth, investment in gold/ceramic/titanium inlays becomes worthwhile if you understand all the related factors and are willing to change your cleaning routines, because the teeth can then be maintained well for decades.

Glass Ionomer Cements