Once upon a time, when you had a cavity, you went to the dentist and came back with a tooth filled with metal: the common silver (or, technically speaking, “dental amalgam”) filling. But today — driven by dental researchers' quest to find a better filling material, and by the desire of many people to avoid a mouth full of dull gray metal — there are other choices.
In recent years, metal-free, tooth-colored fillings have evolved into a well-established treatment method that's finding increasing use — not just in the front of the mouth, where it's most visible, but in the back too. To help understand the benefits of these new materials, let's start by looking at the structure of the tooth.
We usually think of teeth as being hard, sturdy and durable. But did you know that their crowns, or top surfaces above the gums, actually flex under the force of the bite? Understanding the composition and behavior of teeth has led researchers to develop newer and better materials for restoration. These include improved dental porcelains and composite resins which more closely mimic the natural teeth in both function and form: That is, they're strong and good-looking too.
What's more, using these materials for fillings may mean that you can get the same result with a more conservative treatment. How? It all comes down to tooth structure. To secure a traditional amalgam (silver) filling, a tooth often had to be shaped with “undercuts,” which helped hold the material in place. This meant the removal of a greater amount of tooth structure, potentially leading to chipping or cracking of the tooth down the road.
Enter composite resins. Bonding these materials to the underlying tooth doesn't require undercutting, so less of the healthy tooth is removed. That makes for a more robust tooth structure, with potentially greater longevity. Combine that advantage with the aesthetic appeal of a restoration that's hard to tell apart from natural teeth, and you've got a winning combination.
There are different options available for restorations with tooth-colored materials. These range from quick, single-visit fillings for small cavities, to the fabrication of more extensive replicas of the tooth for complicated restorations. Exactly which treatment is needed will depend on an individual's particular dental issue and the kind of results they desire. Whatever the case may be, we can listen to your concerns, answer your questions, and offer the best advice regarding your treatment options.
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.”