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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 thenā?¦
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.”
Until recently anyone who needed to repair cavities in his or her teeth ended up with a mouth full of “silver” fillings. Dental amalgam, which has a silver appearance, was the tooth restoration material of choice. Amalgam, a combination of metals including silver, mercury, and other metals, is still used — but today there are other options that mimic the original teeth they are restoring.
You may have read about some people's concerns about the mercury used in dental amalgam. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), scientific studies have found no ill effects arising from using dental amalgam in fillings for adults or children: “While questions have arisen about the safety of dental amalgam relating to its mercury content, the major US and international scientific and health bodies, including the National Institutes of Health, the US Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization, among others have been satisfied that dental amalgam is a safe, reliable and effective restorative material.” Dental amalgam is still used for molars (back teeth) that must withstand heavy pressure from chewing.
For teeth that are more visible, materials that look and perform more like the original teeth — and are thus more pleasing in appearance — are now available. Dentistry is now taking a “biomimetic approach” (from words meaning “life mimicking”). The new materials — composite resins and porcelains — look like teeth because in many ways their structure imitates the biologic structure of teeth.
Composite resins are made of a plastic material (methacrylate) combined with fillers made of silica, a form of glass. They are able to bond to natural tooth structure and resemble the dentin, the inner layer of the tooth, which has a porous structure similar to bone.
Dental porcelains are a form of ceramic. They are non-metallic materials formed by the action of heat, like the ceramics used in porcelain cups and bowls. They come in a powder form that is mixed with water, shaped, and then placed in an oven until they reach the proper hardness. The end product is translucent and very hard, resembling the densely packed crystals of calcium that make up a tooth's normal outer layer, the enamel.
The old amalgam fillings required removal of tooth material to prepare a site in which they could be placed. Composite resins and porcelains can be used to treat teeth that have small or large amounts of damage to their natural substance because the materials bond directly to the remaining dentin and enamel. Thus they end up stabilizing and strengthening the restored tooth, as well as providing a natural-looking appearance.
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.”
When you say “ahhhhh,” are you worried about all your unsightly metal fillings? If so, did you know that your dentist can resolve your concerns through the use of tooth-colored fillings?
The public's demand for aesthetic tooth-colored (metal free) restorations (fillings) together with the dental profession's desire to preserve as much natural tooth structure as possible has led to the development of special adhesive tooth-colored restorations. And the demand is not limited to just the front teeth. In fact, many people are opting to replace all of their metal fillings — not just those in the front teeth — so that all of their teeth appear younger, fresher and as if they have never had any cavities.
Can you really mimic natural teeth? Proper tooth restoration is a lot more than just filling holes. It is a unique art applied with scientific understanding. Each tooth's internal shape and structure is the guide to how it must be rebuilt to successfully restore it. However, choosing which material to use to restore or rebuild teeth is a critical one based on scientific understanding, experience and clinical judgment — expertise we use daily in our office. The most popular options include composite resins and porcelains, as they allow us to mimic natural tooth colors and shapes. But for the most life-like, natural tooth-colored filling, your best option is porcelain. Porcelain, which is built up in layers, can be made to mimic the natural translucency and contours of tooth enamel.
But what about matching the color? Will it really match? Absolutely! Whether we use resins or porcelain, through our artistry we will create absolute tooth-like replicas. You will never know your teeth have fillings! And unlike metal alloys, these newer materials bond directly to the remaining enamel and dentin of which the teeth themselves are made, thus stabilizing and strengthening them. These techniques are even suitable for children's teeth and can incorporate fluoride to reduce decay.
Still undecided? If so, we understand. Feel free to contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about tooth-colored restorations. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Natural Beauty of Tooth-Colored Fillings.”
The goal of restorative dentistry is to return the teeth to full form (shape) and function. For years, a key tool for achieving this goal has been through the use of metal amalgams (silver looking dental fillings). However, this technique does have some disadvantages. One is the fact that they can involve removal of healthy tooth structure to retain them. Too much “undercutting” can undermine and weaken a tooth resulting in less resistance to biting forces possibly leading to fatigue fractures and cracked tooth syndrome. Another approach is call “biomimetic” which literally means mimicking life. This approach to dentistry is made possible through the structured use of tooth-like materials such as composite resins. Scientific studies and clinical experience have validated their use as both safe and predictable.
By mimicking life, we rely upon our delicate balance of artistry, experience and expertise to provide you with properly restored teeth that function and wear normally, while appearing indistinguishable from natural teeth. Dental composite are now the most commonly used materials for tooth-colored adhesive restorations and have properties similar to a natural tooth's enamel and dentin. They consist of resin which are plastic and fillers made of silica (a form of glass). The fillers give the composites wear resistance and translucency (see through properties). However, most of the properties of enamel are also mimicked quite well by dental porcelains. Porcelains are a form of ceramic, that are formed by the action of heat. Dental porcelains come in all colors and shades so we can easily and perfectly match the color of virtually any natural tooth. As for longevity, porcelain is typically your best option because it is the closest option in mimicking a natural tooth.
To learn more on this subject, you can continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Natural Beauty of Tooth Colored Fillings.” Or contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your specific questions.