Glossary: Glass Ionomer Cement

These fillings are a mixture of glass and an organic acid. Although they are tooth-colored, glass ionomers vary in translucency. Although glass ionomers can be used to achieve an aesthetic result, their aesthetic potential does not measure up to that provided by composite resins. The cavity preparation of a glass ionomer filling is the same as a composite resin; it is considered a fairly conservative procedure as the bare minimum of tooth structure should be removed. Conventional glass ionomers are chemically set via an acid-base reaction. Upon mixing of the material components, there is no light cure needed to harden the material once placed in the cavity preparation. After the initial set, glass ionomers still need time to fully set and harden. Glass ionomers do have their advantages over composite resins: 1. They are not subject to shrinkage and microleakage, as the bonding mechanism is an acid-base reaction and not a polymerization reaction. 2. Glass ionomers contain and release fluoride, which is important to preventing carious lesions. Furthermore, as glass ionomers release their fluoride, they can be "recharged" by the use of fluoride-containing toothpaste. Hence, they can be used as a treatment modality for patients who are at high risk for caries. Newer formulations of glass ionomers that contain light-cured resins can achieve a greater aesthetic result, but do not release fluoride as well as conventional glass ionomers. Glass ionomers are about as expensive as composite resin. The fillings do not wear as well as composite resin fillings. Still, they are generally considered good materials to use for root caries and for sealants.

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