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FiveFactsAboutTooth-ColoredFillings

For decades, dental amalgam — the common “silver” fillings found in the mouths of millions — was the best option for restoring teeth after the removal of decay. This time-tested material is still going strong, but in recent years it's had serious competition from newer restoration techniques that use tooth-colored substances to make fillings. If you've heard of these new materials and want to know more, you can start with the following five facts.

1) Filling materials must match the properties of natural teeth.

When properly cared for, teeth are strong, resilient, and superbly functional. A good filling material should mimic the strength and durability of natural teeth under biting forces. It should also last a long time in the mouth, be relatively easy to place, and be economical in cost. In the past, amalgam fillings were the best choice to do the job. But that was then.

2) Tooth-colored filling materials offer similar benefits, plus aesthetic appeal.

Composite resins and dental porcelains are tough, durable materials that have been found to hold up well under years of use. Unlike traditional silver fillings, however, they match the appearance of natural teeth quite closely. This means that even a restoration in the front of the mouth may be virtually undetectable. And who wouldn't like that?

3) Tooth-colored resins may allow more conservative treatment in decay removal.

In order to keep them securely in place, amalgam (silver) fillings may require “undercutting,” which removes more of the tooth structure. The process involved in bonding tooth-colored restorations, however, generally requires removal of less tooth material. This means a stronger base for rebuilding the tooth's structure.

4) Different treatment methods are used for different degrees of tooth restoration.

Small cavities can be treated by direct “chairside” techniques, which are very similar to the methods used for traditional amalgam (silver) fillings: in one brief visit, it's all done. When a greater volume of tooth structure must be replaced, we may be able to create a larger tooth-colored filling in a longer visit. Or, we might need to have a special restoration made to match your teeth; then, you can come back to have it securely bonded for a natural and long-lasting result.

5) Both amalgam and tooth-colored fillings are safe and effective.

Each has advantages and disadvantages in particular cases. But as the technology of tooth-colored filling systems evolves, some dental researchers have heralded the beginning of the “post-amalgam era.” Are tooth-colored fillings right for your individual situation? We're the ones to ask.

If you would like more information about tooth-colored fillings, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Natural Beauty of Tooth-Colored Fillings.”

While the goal of restorative dentistry is to return all of the destroyed or lost dental tissues of the teeth to full form (shape) and function, when you blend this goal with the artistry of cosmetic dentistry, the results can be dazzling. Today's modern techniques and materials enable replacement of missing tooth structure that allows bonding directly to the tooth so that it not only is an exact color match but also actually strengthens the tooth. And tooth-colored fillings are not just for front teeth. They can dramatically improve the appearance of all teeth — even your back molars — so that it appears you've never had tooth decay at all!

All of this is accomplished through the use of either tooth-colored dental porcelain or composite resins. Porcelains are a form of ceramic material formed by the action of heat. They are available in many colors and shades made from a powder corresponding to the primary color of the natural tooth structure that is mixed with water and placed into an oven for firing (hence their ceramic nature). When built up in layers by highly trained dental ceramicists, they can be made to mimic the exact natural translucency, staining and contours of tooth enamel.

Dental composite resins are the most common materials used for tooth-colored adhesive restorations today and have properties similar to tooth structure. They consist of resin or special plastics and fillers that are made of silica, a form of glass. The fillers give the composites wear resistance and translucency (see through properties).

It is important to note that besides providing the appearance of beautiful teeth, properly restored teeth function and wear better. But most important to you, they appear indistinguishable from natural teeth! Furthermore, scientific studies and clinical experience have validated their use as both safe and predictable. In fact, these techniques are also suitable for children's teeth and can incorporate fluoride to reduce decay. Together, all of these changes have so significantly impacted the way modern dentistry is practiced that many believe we may have entered into the so-called “post-amalgam (silver metal-colored dental fillings) era.”

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about tooth-colored fillings. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Natural Beauty of Tooth Colored Fillings.”